It’s crucial to recognize that in the United States, the federal government does not operate as a scaled-up version of a state or local government. The federal government is an insurance company with an army, spending the vast majority of its resources on the military or cutting checks. State and local governments, by contrast, spend money on police officers, bus drivers, fire fighters, and other front-line service providers.
They also tax differently. State and local governments collect regressive sales and property taxes, while the federal government collects progressive income taxes.
All of which is to say that the big question in state/local government is how to spend middle class people’s money wisely on services that are better provided collectively than on the free market. But the big question in the federal government is how much money to redistribute from the rich/young/healthy to the poor/old/sick. These are totally different questions, and Jeb isn’t even bothering to answer the second one.
A more ominous possibility is that Bush genuinely plans to run the country as if he’s running a municipal government.
“If a law or a rule doesn’t contribute to growth, why do it?” he asks in the speech, “if a law subtracts from growth, why are we discussing it?”
This is something more county commissioners, mayors, city councillors, etc. around America really ought to ask themselves. But in terms of the federal government’s main regulatory activities, it’s awfully silly. Why does the Clean Air Act impose some rules whose repeal would boost short-term economic growth? Well, it’s to keep the air clean so that the act of breathing is not unduly impaired by toxic pollutants that kill people and stifle children’s intellectual development. The Clean Water Act does something similar for water. Another federal law that’s recently been in the news is the ban on pregnancy discrimination. Here we have a tradeoff that involves both basic fairness (discrimination is morally wrong) and the long-term viability of American society (someone’s got to have babies) at the expense of a short-term burden on business growth.