As seen in Real Clear Markets
“I might look fine to you, but I feel crappy 70 percent of the time.” Those are the words of filmmaker Lisa Hepner. Hepner is the creator of The Human Trial, a documentary about the suffering endured by those with Type 1 diabetes.
According to a New York Times story about the travails of Hepner and others (author: Andrew Jacobs), those diagnosed have long clung to the possibility that “A cure is just five years away.” Except that with Type 1 diabetes, tomorrow is seemingly the day that never comes. Which means those suffering feel consistently lousy while living with the threat of diabetes-related complications including “heart disease, blindness, kidney damage and the possibility of losing a gangrenous limb to amputation.”
Jacobs’s story ran last week, the same week that Congress was in the process of passing what it described as the Inflation Reduction Act. That inflation has nothing to do with legislative policy didn’t seem to concern politicians who routinely redefine the meaning of self-unaware. But a discussion of inflation is a digression.
What’s most offensive about legislation that has nothing do with inflation is the plan to hire 80,000 new employees for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). About what’s offensive, this is not an attack on the IRS. The latter is merely an outsourced function of Congress. Since politicians would never themselves want to be directly tied to the odious act of tax collection and harassment, those who do “politics” for a living have hired others to do their dirty work for them. Bothersome as the IRS may be, those in its employ are just doing their job.
Apparently there aren’t enough IRS employees, which explains at least part of the legislation curiously billed as inflation related. The IRS will gain more resources to squeeze more tax revenue out of the people. Please think about this in terms of the diabetes scourge.
So that the political class can have more money to dole out in political fashion, there will be fewer resources left in the private sector. The connection between government waste and a not-quite-there diabetes cure is obvious, or should be.
Figure that the federal government alone consumes more than $5 trillion worth of privately-produced wealth annually. Imagine for fun if government were a tenth of its present size. Then imagine all those trillions remaining in private hands and by virtue of remaining in them, being directed by financial intermediaries to higher uses. Is it unrealistic to assume some of those funds would find their way to a Type 1 cure, or might have found their way in the past toward a Type 1 cure? Would knowledge of the path to a cure have perhaps compounded in greater amounts such that “tomorrow” would already be here, or at least closer?
The answers to the above questions are in a sense impossible to come up with. Which speaks to the unseen horrors of government waste. We’ll never know what advances would have been achieved if politicians weren’t such sizable consumers of precious resources. Which is why the “unseen” in a very real sense answers the question: of course we’d be much further along, or already at a diabetes cure if government were smaller. Just as wealth compounds, so does knowledge. All the government waste over the decades naturally slowed the experimentation required to come up with answers to that which makes its sufferers “feel crappy 70 percent of the time.”
To which some who should know better will point to government spending on Type 1 cures. The guess here is that they exist, but the protest misses the point. In the private sector those who remove unease from the lives of others are routinely rewarded for doing just that, thus raising the question why the need for government as investor in cures? Much more important, it’s useful to point out that government can’t be an investor precisely because government is not governed by market signals. While failed investments are mothballed in the private sector so that resources can reach better hands, in government what makes no sense lives forever, and to our detriment. Put another way, “government” and “Type 1 diabetes cure” work at cross purposes.
Which brings us back to the plan from Congress to make the IRS more muscular. What a tragedy, though it should be said that the tragedy was authored by both sides. Democrats operate under the illusion that so-called “budget deficits” are a consequence of Congress not collecting enough tax revenue. Compounding the tragedy, Republicans validate what is absurd from their opponents by saying we have so-called “budget deficits” because government spends too much. In reality, they’re both impressively wrong. We have so-called “budget deficits” because government revenues are way too high now, and market actors expect them to be exponentially higher in the future. The debt grows and grows because market players know tax revenues will grow and grow. The U.S. is a good bet to pay its debts, which means politicians will continue to be size consumers of precious resources.
How chilling all of this must be or should be for those enduring Type 1 diabetes, and other diseases without a cure. While nitwit pundits on the Left and Right fight about government spending via vague notions about debt, GDP, and long-term “growth,” the simple truth is that government spending is a cruel tax that we suffer mightily now, tomorrow, and decades from now as politicians consume precious resources at the expense of crucial knowledge and wealth not created in the real economy.
In short, tomorrow seemingly never comes for the diabetes ill because politicians are too busy wasting what’s precious now, and “now” will multiply as what’s spent now morphs into something much bigger in the future. Please keep this in mind as they legislate for themselves even longer fingers meant to find their way into your pockets.
John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, Vice President at FreedomWorks, a senior fellow at the Market Institute, and a senior economic adviser to Applied Finance Advisors (www.appliedfinance.com). His most recent book is When Politicians Panicked: The New Coronavirus, Expert Opinion, and a Tragic Lapse of Reason.