Sunday, 14 November 2010

What big US government

I will never really understand how some Americans think they have big government. Other than their massive spending on defence. Take maternity leave for example. see USA Today here.

The U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act allows for 12 weeks of job-protected leave. This is not paid (accept for a few states). To quote the article 'out of 168 nations in a Harvard University study last year, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave, leaving the United States in the company of Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.'

That is not big government, that is already the smallest state possible.

I have been watching Undercover Boss USA and one thing that runs through each program (apart from the fact that the boss only seems to deal with the personal issues of the individuals and not the company wide problems) is that Americans get almost nothing from their government or their taxes. It is simply shocking how little help the US provides. In this program you see how Americans just get on with their problems. That is commendable but every program throws up many issues which the boss deal with later in the program.

It is not just healthcare but all types of care which is not as good as it should be. It's not as if the USA doesn't have Social Security, its just not very good when compared with other first world countries. We all know about Americas Work to Welfare programs which is much harsher than the Coalitions proposals, but did you know that US citizens only received three months of unemployment benefit until this was changed to two years for the duration of the recession.

So American I just want to let you know that you do not have big government.

USA Social Security Administration can be found here


  1. Myopic article ignoring the obvious fact that 'big government' is subject and you have taken an objective view of the term from your own perspective.

    Americans aren't soley cocerned with big government but expanding government and it is impossible to argue that American government isn't expanding at an unprecedented rate, a rate most Americans thought impossible after expansion under Bush years.

    You must appreciate the gulf of cultural difference between our two countries. In fact Obama and the Democrats suffered such extreme losses to Congress in the midterms for the exact opposite reason that is causing coalition's approval ratings to dip. Spending.

    The Tea Party's success is facilitated by Americans natural suspicion of government whereas post WWII Britain evolved under socialist rule. So when Obama announces spending hikes to promote growth the masses take to the streets with similar vigour to the student protesters demonstrating against cuts to HE.

    America is the worlds leading economy for good reason. The natural laissez-faire culture is clearly responsible for decent living standards, similar standards that many in Britain would attribute to the political left (NHS etc). In fact since Keynesian Bush took the helm, America was the place where people had little experiece of high levels of unemployment and hardship and this has only worsened since Obama continued the trend at a faster pace.

    So whilst you may be critical of their welfare and social security policies, you have to see why they have managed to remain how they are for so long. Something is working over there and it is about time we had the intellectual revolution that the USA had in 1775.

  2. Well it is hard to be objective. I was posting this as I see it. I understand people in the US have a different propective. I guess in my mind compared to other countries around the world the US doesnt have big government. Although I understand they believe they do when compared to the history of the US.

    Great long commment btw

    I wasn;t really being critial just pointing out that the government is not big compared to others.

    NAtually a lower cost base does make the USA more competitive then the EU. Like China is more competitive again. But there is a quality of life that is reduced for the poorer people in society if spending is not at a reasonable level.

    Im not a give government person myself (in the UK sense) but a medium government person. efficent but protective government of the poor and the needly.

  3. I agree that a balance must be drawn between competitiveness and the safety net but I don't think many claim living standards in the USA are even close to being as low as they are in China.

    I'd never argue against providing a safety net but the only thing it seems to do is turn into a hammock for those that want to abuse it. And if the ultimatum is between cushy living for the unemployed or as near to full employment as is economically and culturally necessary then I know which I'd choose.

    I think a lot of people would try to refute me but it does seem to be one or the other in the long run. It's hard to find any impeccable examples of big government countries that have a strong and dynamic economy too.

    Thanks for replying anyway. Although I'm longing for the kid of anti-intrusive government suspicion that the USA has enjoyed for such a long time.

  4. "It's not as if the USA doesn't have Social Security, its just not very good when compared with other first world countries"

    That depends on what you want of your social security. For example the UK social security is very high, which some might count as good. However since this is then expensive for people working for a living, damages economic growth due to our crippling taxes and encourages welfare dependence that harms the recipients of our enforced largesse. So this "good" system of social security actually causes great harm to everyone, when compared with a more modest scheme.

    Unfortunately you are used to a huge government. You are told by the generally left-wing, BBC-dominated British media that for every problem the government must provide a solution. The UK government is far too big, the projected budget should be cut by 30% or more just as a start, not by 20%.

    Taxes should be slashed and simplified (flat rate of 10% on income over £12,000 would be my first guess, VAT binned, corporate taxes simplified at lower rates but with no special-interest provisions or subsidies for favoured industries, capital gains and dividends put in with income, fuel duties gradually ramped down). Healthcare, pensions, education, arts and media should be taken completely out of government hands (although in the case of healthcare and education there is a case for government assistance in paying, there is no case for government provision that does not eventually boil down to government control).

    All this would help everyone. The problems that people demand government solve are either caused by government's solutions to other problems or cannot be solved by government actions. For the most part government gets in the way, it does not free people. Government should therefore be kept to an absolute minimum.

  5. I am a fan of smaller government but not tiny government. I also believe a simple straight line tax system where we all pay the same percentage does make sence.

    But VAT while it could be reduced, not even america has removed sales tax. Its an important part of regular govt income. Plus those Europeans wouldnt allow the UK to get rid of VAT anyway.

  6. Sales tax is not VAT. There are some critical differences, that lead many economists to warn the USA against a VAT. VAT is very bureaucratic for a start.

    How about we tell the Europeans that if they want us to charge our own people VAT for our own exchequer on goods and services in our own country then they should try to invade?

  7. Richard, lol lets not ask them to invade. I think we won that one. Well then lets replace VAT with Sales tax?