If you don’t like someone’s idea, be sure to call it an ‘agenda’.

No argument necessary. Forming an argument will not improve your chances of winning.

I caught this one on the twitter. It’s called, Gifquester: The Story of Sequestration in Handy GIF Form, and is brought to us courtesy of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union. It purports to be a cutesy little history on the sequestration, which is government’s pathetic attempt to shave a little acceleration from its spending increases. The good stuff—and by that I mean the empty-headed drivel that makes for fun blogging—begins two steps in:

Now, every so often Congress authorizes how much money the government can borrow. This is called the debt ceiling. Tea partiers claimed that the debt ceiling was too damn high.

But they were actually using the debt ceiling as leverage to advance their agenda of shrinking government services and cutting programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

After taking the U.S. economy to the brink of default, the right wing agreed … .

That’s the entire discussion on why the Tea Party wants to shrink government services. They, just, have this, agenda. That’s, just, what they do. That’s their thing. They shrink government. They’re government shrinkers. That’s their agenda. All you need to know about the economics of it is that the Tea Partiers have an agenda, and the good guys—the AFSCME—oppose that agenda. 

Now, I’m not here to defend the Tea Party’s budget proposals. Not recalling the specifics at the moment, and not interested in a Google goose chase, suffice it to say that the cuts were insubstantial and in the wrong places. Even so, simply calling the budget an agenda is scarcely a confrontation of its merits.

I tried to think up a half-baked analogy. It’s not a great one, but here goes: Suppose my neighbor, let’s call him Bob, parks his truck in my driveway. How easy is it to denounce The Bob Agenda of blocking my driveway for the sake of blocking my driveway? Nothing is easier. But suppose I spent even a moment in contemplation about why Bob might have parked his car in my driveway. Perhaps he is moving a large television or a piece of furniture, and he will be out of my driveway within minutes. Perhaps his wife is in labor, and this is the quickest and most convenient way to get her to a hospital. If I find, once I understand why Bob parked in my driveway, that his intentions are not hostile, and even likely to do somebody a bit of good an acceptable expense to myself, then I might be more willing to tolerate the temporary inconvenience. Of course my neighbor is never entitled to park his truck in my driveway, but being a good neighbor, I think, requires some curiosity as to why my fellow neighbors might act outside of my interest. I can’t detect a modicum of such curiosity on the part of the AFSCME.

Why Tea Partiers, among others, want to reduce the size of government in general is easy to understand for anyone who is curious. The reason, in two sentences, is that, unlike private businessmen, the government almost always gets paid, without regard to whether it does a good job or a poor job. Transferring as much responsibility as possible to those whose livelihoods depend on doing good work therefore serves the greater economic interest. That’s the agenda. The agenda is to create an economic environment in which consumers have greater opportunity to reward good work over poor work.

Now, the AFSCME has included its own brief economic analysis of the Tea Party’s agenda. Here it is. Get ready:

The sequester will eliminate jobs, damaging our fragile economic recovery, and halt services that Americans, including our children, rely on. Things like food safety inspections, air traffic control, military training, pre-school education, community health centers, monitoring for water and air pollution, national parks, and nutritional aid for women, infants and children.

I understand the jobs thing. This is coming from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Government employees. These are the employees that the public has to pay, at penalty of imprisonment, without regard to whether they do a good job or a poor job. I can understand why they would oppose government cuts. Their jobs would be the first to re-allocate. (No agenda there, of course.)


Other interests, besides those of government employees, are at stake. These are grave and important concerns. I don’t want to dismiss them, but Frederic Bastiat responded to these concerns over 160 years ago, when he wrote:

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

You’d think that after a century and a half, the opponents of limited government would come up with some better reasons.

Nope. No, small government types do not want to eliminate these useful things. They just disapprove of the state, which can persist on minimum quality, providing them. That’s the agenda.

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