It’s the Big Government, Stupid

It’s the Big Government, Stupid

As you may have heard, the Biden administration is having some problems keeping some of its promises.  Most notably, the administration promised to install half-a-million electric vehicle charging stations and was given $7.5 billion to do so.  In three years, it has thus far installed 7.  Likewise, two years ago, the administration received some $42 billion to deliver high-speed internet service to rural areas and has thus far done squadoosh, prompting a Federal Communications Commissioner to blow his top the other day:

The senior Republican on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is blaming the Biden administration for a lack of high-speed internet projects that were approved under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, comparing the situation to the dearth of electric vehicle charging stations that were also supposed to be built with the funds.

“In 2021, the Biden Administration got $42.45 billion from Congress to deploy high-speed Internet to millions of Americans,” GOP-appointed Commissioner Brendan Carr wrote on X last week. “Years later, it has not connected even 1 person with those funds. In fact, it now says that no construction projects will even start until 2025 at earliest.

Commenters on social media noted that the funds were allocated to the states, arguing the Biden administration is not responsible for any delays. But Carr says it is the Biden administration that is holding up progress.

“There’s no question that the 2021 law put some process in place, but the Biden administration decided to layer on top of that a Byzantine additional set of hoops that states have to go through before the administration will approve them to actually get these funds and start completing the builds,” Carr told FOX Business in an interview.

I can understand the urge to blame the Biden administration for this.  Since it’s an election year, I understand that urge is undoubtedly overwhelming.  And to be sure, the Biden team requested these funds be appropriated even though they didn’t know what to do once they had them.  Still, I think that blaming Biden specifically might be the wrong tack to take on this.

The problem here isn’t the Biden administration per se.  The problem is Big Government.  Whatever it does, wherever it goes, however hard it tries, Big Government just stinks at doing things.  It – or at least its representatives – talk a good game, but when it comes right down to it, it doesn’t walk the walk – mostly because it can’t.

Unfortunately, it’s not just infrastructure projects where Big Government fails, and it’s not just when Democrats are in the White House.  Recently, for example, Eran Bendavid of Stanford and Chirag Patel of Harvard published a paper examining the responses concocted by the health bureaucracies around the country during the COVID pandemic.  There results were disheartening if not entirely unexpected:

No matter how we approached these questions, the primary finding was lack of definitive patterns that could support claims about governmental policy impacts. About half the time, government policies were followed by better Covid-19 outcomes, and half of the time they were not. The findings were sometimes contradictory, with some policies appearing helpful when tested one way, and the same policy appearing harmful when tested another way. No claims about the relationship between government responses and pandemic outcomes held generally. Looking at stay-at-home policies and school closures, about half the time it looked like Covid-19 outcomes improved after their imposition, and half the time they got worse. Every policy, Covid-19 outcome, time period, and modeling approach yielded a similar level of uncertainty: about half the time it looked like things got better, and half the time like things got worse.

Were there clearer impacts when we focused only on policies and responses that were deployed in early 2020, rather than all the way through the end of 2021? Or when looking at pandemic outcomes four weeks ahead rather that just two weeks? We examined policy effects in all these ways. No matter how we examined the data and changed the perspective on this question, the answer was uncertainty.

Yet scientists used these data to make definitive conclusions.


Twenty years ago, in the wake of a terrible European heat wave, I penned a piece about the destructive – and enfeebling – power of big government.  In France alone, the death estimates from the heat wave were between 11,000 and 15,000 people, most of them elderly. It  was a truly remarkable number of deaths for any natural occurrence, all the more so in this case, because they were caused not by a hurricane, earthquake, flood, or other such rampages, but by a handful of rather warm days.

The French government determined that responsibility for the deaths lay with “hospital understaffing, bureaucratic delays and insufficient care for the elderly,” or so it said in a report.  Jean-Felix Bernard, president of France’s Conseil National de l’Air, described by Reuters as “an air quality agency attached to the Environment Ministry,” argued that pollution was the culprit in several thousand of the deaths. And the AP suggested that a lack of modern convenience was the culprit, noting that in France, “air conditioning is rare.”

While all of these factors probably played some role, the real culprit in this mess, this bizarre human tragedy, appears to be plain old-fashioned indifference. It seems that no one cared too much about those who died, and thus no one did much to try to help them. Moreover, once they were dead, no one cared enough even to claim them, at least a great many of them.

As it turns out, the heat wave that gripped France came at an exceptionally inconvenient time for the French. July and August are when much of France shuts down and goes on vacation. And while on vacation, too many French, by their own admission and that of their political leaders, simply couldn’t be bothered to worry a whole lot about their elderly relatives literally roasting to death back home.

Sadly, that wasn’t even the worst of it. Literally hundreds of corpses were stored throughout Paris in both real and makeshift refrigerated morgues for weeks because the same relatives who couldn’t be bothered to interrupt their vacations to assure their alleged “loved ones” were alive, also couldn’t be bothered to interrupt their vacations to claim the old gal after she’d already died.

According to The New York Times, Bernard Mazeyrie, a managing director of General Funeral Services, confirmed that many relatives simply didn’t want their holiday weekends screwed up by an old relative who’d had the discourtesy to die inopportunely. The Times reported that Mazeyrie told them “Some [of the notified families] . . . informed of the death of relatives, postponed funerals, not to interrupt the August 15 holiday weekend, and left the bodies in the refrigerated hall.”

Two weeks after the heat wave had ended and the last of the corpses had piled up, some 400 remained “unclaimed.” Of those, only 57 were finally determined to have no family to claim them. The families of the remaining 340-plus had to be tracked down by a special government task force and compelled to come pick up their “loved one.”…

In the wake of the heat wave deaths, one of France’s largest daily newspapers, Le Parisien, opined that, “It is not up to the state to take care of our elderly. It is up to us.” But nothing could be further from the truth. The leviathan governments of Europe have usurped the role and the responsibility of the family with regard to the aged, in this case with deadly consequences. The inimitable Mark Steyn summed up the situation perfectly, as follows.

In Paris this spring, a government official explained to me how Europeans had created a more civilised society than America – socialised healthcare, shorter work weeks, more holidays. We’ve just seen where that leads: gran’ma turned away from the hospital to die in an airless apartment because junior’s sur la plage. M. Chirac’s somewhat tetchy suggestion that his people should rethink their attitude to the elderly was well taken. But Big Government inevitably diminishes its citizens’ capacity to take responsibility, to the point where even your dead mum is just one more inconvenience the state should do something about.

The problem with Big Government isn’t the costs associated with it.  The problem with Big Government isn’t that some people are bad at administering it.  The problem with Big Government is Big Government.  It’s debilitating and demeaning and destructive, and it can never be done “right,” because there is no right way to do that.

So…yes, the Biden team deserves blame for promising Big Government solutions to every problem, but it’s not like Republicans have been much better over the last couple of decades.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.