Cato Policy Analysis: Cut the Size and Scope of Government to Minimize Failures

• July 27, 2015 2:39 pm


Cutting the scope of the federal government is the first step in minimizing the failures the institution has on serving the American people, according to Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, a nonpartisan, public policy think-tank.

"Management reforms and changes to budget rules might reduce some types of failure. But the only way to create a major improvement in performance is to cut the overall size of the federal government," the latest Cato Institute Policy Analysis said.

The major causes for the failures of the federal government, as outlined by Edwards, are: federal policies rely on top-down planning and coercion; the government lacks knowledge about our complex society; the incentives for public servants are bureaucratic and misaligned; the federal government has grown enormous in size and scope.

"Federal spending grew from 4 percent of gross domestic product (GPD) in 1930 to more than 20 percent today," Edwards said. "[T]he federal budget of about $4 trillion is 100 times larger than the average state government budget of about $40 billion."

Recent analysis from the Washington Free Beacon has reported on recent government expenditures of $222,172 on "studying how men look at women when they drink" and $3.5 million to find out "why lesbians are obese."

Since 2001, polls taken on public trust and satisfaction in the government have seen a sharp decline, falling to 24 percent and 29 percent, respectively, according to 2014 data from Pew Research Center. In 2001, public trust stood at 41 percent while satisfaction stood at 57 percent.

In the analysis, Edwards adds that according to similar polls, Americans think the federal government "is too large and powerful" and that only one-third of people polled think the government gives competent service.

The Cato Policy Analysis concludes that the deep, structural failures of the federal government will "not [be] solved by appointing more competent officials of putting a different party in charge." The first step in addressing these failures is to cut the federal government in size and scope, leaving more to the state governments and the individuals and businesses within them.

The Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight held a June 2015 hearing regarding the "Wasteful Spending in the Federal Government" at which Edwards gave witness testimony.