In terms of politics, I am a conservative in that I subscribe to a political philosophy that favors tradition in the face of external forces of change. I am always critical of any proposals that call for radical social change. I was influenced to become a conservative by family members, especially my parents. Despite generation gaps and family disagreements, children tend to adopt the political ideology of their parents; and I was no exception. My parents are strict conservatives who strongly believe that prevailing social norms and traditions often contain wisdom within them that was handed down from one generation to another. They also have deep-rooted mistrust of attempts to change society in a way that it conforms to an intellectual account of what is efficient or just.
Growing up in Pennsylvania also influenced me to become a conservative. The state has always been rural outside Pittsburgh and Philadelphia-two of its largest cities. People from the rural areas tend to be more conservative. Also, many of the manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania have simply disappeared. While such forms of employment did not require people to be very educated, they were quite stable for decades. They were replaced by poverty, despair, and crime. This is why most Pennsylvanians like my parents are conservatives who yearn for the good old days when their prospects were nullified by trade deals.
In my own opinion, the three biggest problems facing the United States federal government are taxation, housing, and crime. The federal tax system is plagued with problems. It is complicated, does not raise enough revenue to fund government spending, undermines economic efficiency, and creates unfair outcomes. A good tax system is one that raises the revenue required to fund government spending in a way that is as simple, growth-friendly and equitable as possible. The US does not have such a system. If the current law projections are to be believed, public debt as a segment of the economy will gradually increase in the coming years. While revenues will increase slightly, spending will rise much faster because of increases in social security, health programs, and net interest. Under realistic policy alternatives, the amount of debt will rise even higher. Astronomical and growing debt levels will crowd out investments in the future and undermine growth.
Today, federal taxes amount to about 18% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); roughly what they have been since the 1950s. In contrast, local and state taxes have increased significantly over that period. The total amount of taxes from all sources is slightly over 34% of the GDP, an increase from a low of 26% during the mid-1950s but less than the highs of over 36% achieved several times in the past two decades. These figures show that total taxes are not particularly low by historical standards. On the other hand, there is an opportunity to increase taxes slightly without stepping into an unprecedented territory. However, for there to be substantial impact, tax increments would have to be directed towards the middle class and not just the wealthy. This is something that the federal government is not keen on doing.
The other problem facing the federal government is housing. After several fiascos involving attempts to do away with slums and construct affordable housing for the poor, its obvious that efforts by the government often make conditions even worse. The pathetic consequences of involvement by the federal government in housing are evident in the decline of low-cost housing. Before the 1950s, American cities offered poor people a range of choices in shelter. They may not have been spacious or beautiful, but the options were many. Many of the occupants of these houses were immigrants, most of whom eventually relocated to betters areas. Much of these housings may be way below todays standards. However, they made it possible for people to save while still living in urban setting.
Apart from poor design, targeting, management and regular scandals, there are something wrong with public housing that is federally funded. In my own opinion, it is not needed at all. There is no shortage of housing in the United States. What is there is a distorted housing market. By concentrating on below-market public housings in urban neighborhoods, the federal government has undermined market mechanisms capable of attracting private investors. Such a situation has made it easier for lenders to give those neighborhoods a wide berth. The housing problems experienced in cities have been worse by government agencies such as the Federal Housing Authority. The FDA has insured about $200 billion in mortgage loans for the construction of detached, single-family houses. It has diverted revenue from the urban housing market by concentrating almost exclusively on such homes located in the suburbs.
For a bigger chunk of the time it has been in existence, the FHA has largely been unnecessary. Since the mid-1950s, mortgage insurance has always been available in the private market. However, the private firms offering are forced to compete with the federal government on a daily basis. Another problematic agency is the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. It has thousands of full-time employees and conducts many programs that increase the national debt by billions of dollars each year. To make matters worse, most of these programs deal with problems that were created by the federal government in the first place.
The federal government is also facing the problem of escalating crime. The United States criminal justice system was formed to keep communities safe, and to ensure that convicts who had been released from prison became law-abiding and self-sufficient citizens. However, the system is now a monumental failure that the federal government is having a hard time redeeming. Apart from the billions of dollars spent, the inept criminal justice system is contributing to the breakdown of the traditional family, a cultural decline, and overreliance on public assistance programs. There is a litany of statistics that document the failure of this system. Today, the United States incarcerates 1 in every 100 Americans, with 1 in every 31 residents on probation or parole.
The expansion of criminalization has not brought about any measurable reduction in recidivism despite a tenfold increase in the number of people incarcerated. Surprisingly, the call to continue growing the federal government and propagate this failure is often led by conservatives and gets support from African-American leaders. The fact that minority communities are unfairly targeted is not just about a bunch of petty crimes or decriminalizing marijuana. Police departments and prosecutors may be rewarded for making convictions. However, they are not held into account for the contribution they make to congested prisons or for increases in Medicaid and welfare dependence.
Nash, G. H. (2014). The conservative intellectual movement in America since 1945. Open Road Media.
Workman, S. (2015). The dynamics of bureaucracy in the US Government: How congress and federal agencies process information and solve problems. Cambridge University Press.
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