>> he's also a contributing editor to american conservatives. he frequent guest on television and radio and resides in virginia, so close by, and i want you to welcome the author of "devouring freedom: can big government ever be stopped?" [applause] good morning. >> good morning. >> well, thank you, first of all, eagle forum and heritage foundation, for having me if fighting for conservative principles in a country that forgot about them. my book, "devouring freedom" asks the question, can big
government ever be stopped? the focus is really what are the political prospects for limited government? we talked about limiting the federal government for a very long time, yet we don't seem, as a movement and republican party and political party made a lot of headway in that direction, and, you know, a couple summers ago, barack obama promised a summer of recovery which didn't pan out well, but this summer has been the summer of big government. we've seen, through exposures through various leaks, a lot of details emerging about the national surveillance program and extent to which ordinary americans are ensnared in the data mining and surveillance that's going on to protect the country. we have seen a lot of flaws inhairpt in obamacare, watched implementation of the affordable care act sort of creek and moan and we've seen this train starting to run off the tracks, and i think we're starting, as a
country, to see what is in store for us as this health care law unfolds. nancy pelosi said we needed to pass the bill to find out what was in it. the obama administration, jay carney yesterday in a press conference promised once provisions kick in, we were really going to like it, but so far, that's not the case. we are starting to see their delaying provisions of the law so even as the obama administration finds out what's in it, they don't seem to like it very much. that's sort of been a problem. i think overall, with the sequester and all of the, you know, the horrifying, you know, predictions that were made, oh, about how, you know, the economy was going to collapse if we had the sequester and airplanes would not be able to fly and school buildings would be bulldozed and everybody would lose their jobs, and we'd sort of not seen many of the dire predictions come to pass, and we've seen that government can
survive a little bit of a diet. this summer of big government, we have to ask ourselves, is there anything we can do to begin to roll it back? the sequester, obviously, while a nice start, it's certainly completely inadequate to the job of containing massive federal spending. you know, we talk about reducing, when we really talk about the sequester, except there are some actual defense cuts so the only thing that's really cut in normal terms, as of in terms of spending less money, is a constitutional function of the federal government, but the unconstitutional functions of the federal government are not cut, but even within confines of how washington defines spending cults, we talk about two cents on the dollar, and even that is spread out over a very long
period of time. we're talking about rolling back big government, it's going to require something a lot more than the sequester. before we even can talk about can bill government be stopped, people want us to ask, what is big government? do we have a big government? i would argue to you that we have very big federal government. between 1787 and 1987, we never had a federal budget that crossed the trillion dollar threshold. in 1987, we finally had a trillion dollar federal budget. it only took us 15 -- took 200 years to get to 1 # trillion, but 15 years after that to get to 2 trillion as the size of the federal government. it took just five years, and now we run budget deficits annually, that are a trillion dollars.
it's a big government, and that's an unhealthy, and unfortunately, we crossed all the trillions and two a three trillion threshold with the republican president. the size of the national debt, a gross national debt that is bigger than the united states economy. i would say that that's a sign of a big government. even the growth national debt does not really measure accurately all of the money that we owe, all the promises the federal government has made that it doesn't have the money to pay for it, and if you look at that, we have unfunded liabilities to
the entitlement program, social security, and medicare well in excess of $80 trillion, and our unfunded liabilities are twice the size of the world economy. i would argue to you that that's a pretty big government. what do we do in terms of returning to the founding father's vision of a federal government that was strong enough to protect the united states and defend its interests, but limited in scope, limited by the constitution. it's limited by ambition on our claims, money, option, and freedom. big government takes your freedom, and even legitimate functions of government, things government needs to be doing cost money, takes money out of
the private economy, and limits your personal choices. some limits are necessary for society to function, but i'd argue as government gets too big, too large, too intrusive, the reduction in choices becomes unacceptable and beyond what the founders envisioned. when it's broke like the government we have now, and there's political investments that government wants to make in things ranging from the state and local level, education, that they can't make because the public employees' pensions, they pay retired public employees instead of being able to provide services for the people who live in their communities, and the federal government was starting to see all the discretionary spending in federal budget be crowded out by the size of the entitlement programs and by the size of the interest on a national debt.
that limits our political options that we can have through the limited representative as a free people. i think there's three major things that need to happen before we can start looking at rolling this back. the first is we need to have a limited government political party. right now, the republican party has been a rhetorically prolimited government party, and there are, i i note in the book, periods where the republican party lived up to the represent -- rhetoric. there's the truman administration, called the do nothing congress under robert taft, the congress with ronald reagan elected in 1980, and the first year or two of the gingrich congress in 1984. most of you are a little younger than me, or quite a bit younger than me, but i always say joking that there was just one good
album, and the gingrich congress had two good years when they tried to cut government spending, but we need, if we're going to actually have limited government in the country, a political party that actually advocates limited government. we have a political party on the democrats that are certainly not shy about advocating for much bigger government, and president obama is very unapologetic in saying that there really are not other sphiewtions in the american life to keep us together besides the big federal government. now, that's, obviously, not true. there are churches. there are community organizations. there are families. the free market is a thing we all do together. that is a vision of government that's embraced by the democratic party. there needs to be something to stand against that. there's the second point. the second thing we need is to continue to have people like rand paul and ted cruz and mike
lee and before he came to heritage and continuing out of heritage, jim demint, who fight within the republican parties to reform the parties and hold it to the principles and platforms it espouses in campaign time and live up to the principles when it's time to govern, and i think that's fundment tally important, and that's why groups like heritage action, club for growth, freedom work, and young americans for liberty and so many tea party groups throughout the country's doing is so important because we are creating a constituency for limited government within the republican party, and we are changing the incentives for republican politicians. it is no longer a good career move to be a republican politician who advocates bigger government. the reason for that is you could actually lose your job in a primary. that is your realistic possibility for politicians who have been safe for many years, can point to good grades and
some conservative groups' score cards, but still, when push came to shove, and there were major votes like the medicare drug prescription benefit, the $700 billion wall street bailout, some of the votes to block the implementation of obama care, where some of the republicans were nowhere to be found. now there are political incentives for them to live up to their principles because people are holding them accountable. when electing the right people thinking you'll change policies and politics by electing the right people is unrealistic. you will never elect enough right people. you need to change incentivings to the wrong people find what's best for them to do the right thing. we cannot allow obamacare, the affordable care act, to remain
in tact. people joke about how the house held 20, 30, going on 40 votes to repeal obamacare and say, oh, why are they wasting time with this. the repeal bills will not go anywhere, and the president will not sign them. the president was reelected. the supreme court ruled on this. why are we bothering to do this? there's a good reason why we are trying to keep obamacare repeal alive issue, and i really think this is a fundamental issue in terms of whether we are ever again going to return to something like a limited government in this country. obamacare is not going to work, and you can already see the administration is conceding this when they bury a lot of the major enforcement decisions ahead of the midterm elections because they know so they don't face the voters and let benefits
kick in before the costs. obamacare is not going to work, and they are not going to be verifying whether people are eligible for the subsidies that obama care offers, whether their income requirements really meet the standards to receive these subsidies so the costs of poor components of obamacare are going to go up in the next year. we are going too see it bend the cost curve over the long term in a negative way and increase costs. the way problems with obamacare is resolved is one of two ways. what the democrats and liberals say is everything wrong with obamacare is a product of what they've allowed to remain in private sector hands saying it's the insurance companies, which even though they mandate we buy the insurance companies' products, they say it's a remaining private sector components so we need more government involvement in health
care, not less. you know, government is the only major institution in american life for when it fails in a way, the answer is to give it more money and more power. i don't -- i can't think of any other institution that when it fails it needs to have more of the money and more power and more ability to do things, but that's how the federal government works. it will either move towards much bigger role of government in health care to a system like in europeanys and canada, or gradually untangle the web of mandates and regulations and sub subsidies and promote a free market in health care in this country. there are -- there really is no third way. obamacare, existing currently, is something of the third way, but it's not a stable situation. it's not going to remain under the current circumstances
forever. if we move in the free market direction, we will also see our entight 8ments move in a more free market direction. we'll see the claims of the federal government on our lives and pocketbooks diminish. if we move in the direction of single payer, if we move in a direction where we look back at the first two years of obamacare as being a good period of time of -- in terms of private sector influence and health care, we will never be able to achieve the aims of the limited government political movement. that is why obamacare is a fundamental issue and every vote that can happen that points to the structural problem of the law keeps reforming and repealing this law as a live political issue is still a worthwhile political exercise even if it cannot chief immediate results. you need the ground work for this in the way that we lay the
ground work for repealing catastrophic health care component of medicare in the late 80s. that bill was such a disaster that even the democrats were willing to vote to repeal it, and we've seen the democrats have been willing to vote to repeal the 1099 reporting requirements of obamacare for small businesses and democrats in the senate have been willing to repeal the medical devices to obama care. we had to vote for provisions to suspend the employer mandate, and so i think this needs to be a fight to continue to fight, and i don't think we can afford to give up, and i think that this is a central front, and rolling back and potentially stopping big government. reforming the republican party, limited government, political party in the country, and actually standing up against obamacare, and with that, i open
it to the floor for questions you might have. >> that was wonderful, thank you, james. >> thank you. >> naves -- that was a great talk. [applause] >> in our fight to limit government generally, doesn't -- isn't there a role to be played by the court when it comes to striking down the laws, is that an ace in the hole? any chance of that or congress and a different president? >> well, it's interesting. there's the designed limited government with the enumerated powers, and interstate commerce met commerce that happens between the states redefined
that so that basically anything that happens, breathing, existing, you know, even expiring counts as a form of interstate commerce, so we've kind of stood that on its head, and the other part of the constitution we've stood on its head is it somehow is seen as illegitimate for the federal courts to strike down laws that federal laws that are outside of the enumerated powers under the constitution, but it's per -- perfectly okay using the 14 #th amendment to strike down state laws that don't touch on any constitutional provisions. i would like to see us move to a point where the compensation of the federal judiciary was such that it was more active in restraining the federal government. i think there's two problems with that. one is that a lot of even qualified conservatives because they have resisted for so long judicial activism and overturning the state laws is
reluctant to move against federal laws, particularly federal laws that have strong. they would be second guessing congress in that way and it's difficult to confirm judges who are actually strict constitutionalists so we kind of had to find sort of covert ways to get conservative judgments confirmed, and then you never really know exactly -- you can know if somebody is a conservative judge based on some of institutional affiliations, but you don't know what kind they will be. i think it would be very difficult to roll back a big government, primarily or even substantially through the judiciary, and i think the obamacare case proved that. there were enough republican justices on that court to have a different outcome, but, clearly, that just didn't happen. >> james, you mentionedded four
good senators who see the value of the limited government. >> uh-huh. >> but there's a lot of republicans who don't seed the value of limited government, but those four senators had to win in republican primaries against canada who saw big government as good. >> that's correct. >> talk about the value of the republican primaries. >> i think the most important thing, if we're going to ever have the republican party be a truly limited government party is to have competitive republican primaries, and the fact you see so many big government republicans who are afraid of competitive primaries and afraid of state conventions with those who have a voice and try to alter the presidential primary process to make them lesstive, i think just indicating to you how important this is in the fight for soul of the republican party. not all of these primary challenges are going to win, and even some of the primary challenges they point to the candidates to win the primaries and lose the general election.
maybe there's ill-advised comments, not good candidates, but the fact of the matter is in those cases, they send a message to the republican establishment that if you just use conservative rhetorics in campaign time, but your votes don't reflect conservative values when it comes time to govern, that sends a message to the republicans they need to actually listen to their constituents, and they need to be a limit scared. when you look at a guy like robert bennet, in the senate for several terms, look at orin hatch, he ultimately prevailed, you know, when you look at the entire party infrastructure in kentucky, mobileizing against rand paul and losing, i think that sends a large message to other republicans, and i think its influenced of the republican leadership that sent the republican leadership a message that the tea party is a faction to be reckoned with.
>> mitchell, attending middle state university. in listening to everything you said, i have a variety of questions about spending and how that might be affected by inflation, and about parties, ect., but there was one that seems like this whole issue in general, not just what you talked about, but including that and everything else seems to come down to something that has very deep implications. vast question with a great deal of gravity because of the implications. at what point would you say, if ever, we go past the point of political fighting and start a real fight to actually perform some suction on the government going past merely the political process, at what point, then, have we gone past the pen to the sword? >> one of the things you have to keep in mind is that big government has -- the government has grown largely because the american people have been willing to allow it to grow and
has actually desired a lot of its growth. many of the biggest federal spending programs are the ones with the most popular support, and i talk in my book about the fact that there are a lot of people who, when asked by pollsters, say very sensible things when asked about cutting federal spending, but when asked what programs to cut, all the programs they want to cut are very small parts of the federal budget, and the programs they want to protect are huge parts of the federal government. there is a woman who was interviewed by the "new york times," a tea party activist, and she said, you know, i don't remember the exact words, but basically said, i want small government, and i want unreformed social security too. well, you can't have that, or dick morris, before the election said, you know, mitt romney -- by the way, morris correctly predicted the romney presidency -- dick morris said
romney has to run on government spending, but he needs to not talk about medicare, medicaid, social security, or the defense budget. well, all right. now you ruled out basically 80% of the federal budget, actually, a little bit more than that. i think, you know, before we talk in sort of revolutionary terms, there needs to be a revolution in terms of the public's view of these things. you know, i think we're a long way away from where we can say that this is entirely something that's been imposed on us by, you know, these far away distant bureaucrats, although, i think there's a substantial element of truth to that, but we have to look within ourselves and look at the voters who demand a lot of this, and the democratic party is big as a government party as it is because its clients are dependent on government and demand more and more government all the time.
>> steve from university, and the last question, you mentioned several conservative senators, senators from kentucky, utah, texas, generally, the conservative senators are from conservative states and most conservative from rural districts. i think if the republican party will be a limited government party as we're talking about, you'll have more senators from purple states and congressmen from suburban districts that are elected with limited government candidates, but, typically, for purple states, you don't have the conservative candidates winning in primaries. how realistic is that to expect the party to be truly taken over by a more limited government candidates? >> sure. well, that definitely is a major challenge because what we've seen, really, since the rise of the conservative movement with the founding of national review in 1955 and some events before
that, we've really only had two movement conservatives nominated for president by the republican party. we had barry goldwater in 1964, who went on to lose, and then ronald reagan who went on to win two terms. now, george w. bush, who i have a lot of crift schisms of -- criticisms of him in the book, he was influenced by the conservative movement and had movement conservatives in the administration as his father did, but he, himself, was not a philosophically small government type of guy. i agree, a big problem in terms of actual conservatives winning the republican nomination is the fact that a lot of the conservatives who would be qualified or who are seen as qualified to be president come from, you know rural distributes or southern united states and it's a regional and cultural
battle in the minds of a lot of people. frequently, what happens is the conservative candidates who appeals most to conservatives in the republican primaries, talking about presidential primaries, tebdz -- tends to be the can date who doesn't have the money to go the distance to fight with the establishment candidate, and one who with more money and better organization tends to, for whatever reason, not connect with the grassroots. those are two problems. i think, though, the key -- and that's why in "devouring freedom," i talk about free market popularrism. i think republicans in purple and blue and suburban districts need areas where big government is affecting voters in the districts and run on those issues. i think you can't -- you can have nationalized prince. s, but you can't always nationalize issues, and you have to be speaking to issues that
actually affect the voters in your district and in your state. there are a lot of criticisms we had in some of the blue state republicans like christie and weld, but on the core issues they were running on, liberal on everything else, on the core issues they emphasized in the campaign, they were conservative issues. >> thank you. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> let's give him a round of applause. >> thanks, everybody. [applause] >> visit booktv.org to watch any of the programs you see here online. type the author or book title in the search bar on the upper left side of the page and click "search," and share anything you see on booktv.org easily by clicking "share" and select the format. booktv streams live online for 48 hours every weekend with top nonfiction books and authors. booktv.org. ..