The Era of Unlimited Government

NEW YORK –  “Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business,” President Calvin Coolidge told journalists in March 1929.

If Coolidge suddenly sprang to life today, he would look around and drop dead.

Washington Democrats are minding their own business…and everyone else’s. In this Era of Unlimited Government, the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats stick their snouts anywhere they will fit, without the guidance of common sense, frugality, nor any sense of priorities. For today’s federal government, it’s everything, all the time.

•Senator Tom Harkin (D – Iowa) has moved to cap ATM fees at 50 cents per transaction. Between 1999 and 2009, the number of money machines has exploded from about 227,000 to 425,000 nationwide, reports Independent operators spend $9,000 to $50,000 to purchase each ATM and $12,000 to $15,000 annually to operate it. If Congress slaps price controls on ATM transactions, these businesses will shrivel — perhaps fatally. And then who will install and maintain ATMs?

Harkin should ask himself this: Do ATM owners put pistols to consumers’ heads so they will withdraw cash? Nope. May consumers use their own banks’ ATMs for free or cheap, shop with credit cards, or pay with checks? Yup. So, would Tom Harkin kindly keep his nostrils to himself?

•The Federal Communications Commission is pushing so-called “net neutrality.” Although the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on April 6 that this agency has no jurisdiction over the Internet, FCCniks want to regulate cyberspace via the Communications Act of 1934, which was adopted to oversee telephones. The Internet does not pollute. It does not keep 10-year-olds busy making shoes, nor force people to transmit e-mails, purchase plane tickets online, nor locate lovers with a mouse click. So, why can’t the FCC back off and enjoy some Internet pornography, just as did 28 on-duty Securities and Exchange Commission staffers? (None was fired.) Instead, Democrats want to eclipse one of this economy’s few glimmers of sunlight. This is net brutality.

In a February 2001 interview with Chicago public-radio station WBEZ, law professor Cass Sunstein prophesied how such e-rules could go beyond technical issues like bandwidth. Sunstein suggested that “if you are reading a conservative magazine, they would provide a link to a liberal site and vice versa, just to make it easy for people to get access to competing views.”

Sunstein also proposed that websites include randomly selected links to one or more of the Internet’s top 25 websites.

“The best would be for this to be done voluntarily,” Sunstein added. “But the word ‘voluntary’ is a little complicated. Sometimes people don’t do what’s best for our society unless Congress holds hearings or unless the public demands it. And the idea would be to have a legal mandate as the last resort…but to have that as an ultimate weapon designed to encourage people to do better.”

Sunstein is on leave from Harvard Law School. This frees him to wield his ultimate weapon as President Obama’s “regulatory czar.”

•Precisely 3,006 pages of new federal rules (including a Final Environmental Impact Statement spanning 1,775 pages) require automakers to boost car mileage 37 percent by 2016, at an estimated $51.5 billion reengineering cost. That year, Csaba Csere calculates in June’s Car and Driver, these standards will boost an average vehicle’s price by $926.

•As if nosing around cash machines, computers, and cars were not enough, Washington Democrats wants to control everyone’s salt intake. The federal Institute of Medicine last month urged the Food and Drug Administration to limit how much salt restaurants and manufacturers can add to food products. The Institute hopes “to do so in a gradual way that will assure that food remains flavorful to the consumer.” How thoughtful.  Of course, Americans who find bureaucratically correct entrees bland will reach for their salt shakers and counteract this entire enterprise. So, why not just skip it?

Of course, unlimited government means new taxes.

•Congress is considering a $220 billion “tax extenders” bill through which Democrats would increase from 15 percent to 35 percent the tax on private-equity and hedge-fund profits, confiscating $26 billion. This is in addition to a new 3.8 percent ObamaCare tax on interest and dividend proceeds on incomes exceeding $250,000. Democrats also plan a $10 billion crude-oil tax. Expect fewer deals and pricier gasoline.

As if from a ruptured pipeline, Washington continues to gush taxpayer dollars.

•Greece soiled its national balance sheet, so European bankers and the International Monetary Fund raced to the rescue. Given America’s 17 percent share of the IMF, Senator Jim DeMint (R – South Carolina) estimates that exhausted US taxpayers will pay $6.8 billion of the IMF’s $40 billion bailout of this Greek tragedy.

•The Education Department requested $26 billion in emergency funds on May 13, supposedly to prevent 300,000 teacher layoffs. This is atop last year’s $100 billion in stimulus spending for school districts — including $48 billion to prevent teacher layoffs.

•Meanwhile, ObamaCare — essentially Disney World for federal busybodies — will require $115 billion more than advertised in March. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if lawmakers appropriate all of this legislation’s promised spending, its price will leap from $938 billion to $1.053 trillion, an anticipated 12.5 percent cost overrun just six weeks after enactment.

About the only budget cut Obama has managed is a $53.2 million, 25 percent slash in New York City’s counter-terrorism funding, unveiled 11 days after the Pakistani Taliban successfully sent terror suspect Faisal Shahzad to Times Square to park a car bomb just outside The Lion King. For Obama, New Yorkers seem valuable enough to milk for votes and campaign cash. But when it comes to stopping radical-Muslim terrorists who want Gothamites dead, Obama prefers to finance his teacher’s-union allies.

This potentially lethal slice of fiscal restraint aside, Democratic Washington is like a fire-ant colony, while the American taxpayer is tied, bare legged, to a nearby tree. The ants keep coming by the thousands — hungry, angry, and in constant motion.