A conservative I know said this: “These moronators are morons. “Should the federal government help set up retirement plans for people working for small business.” Hey CNBC Dummy small business are FORBIDDEN to have a 401k. I know I’m one of these small business owners. It’s the damn federal government that is preventing it in the first place!”
He and I famously argued in AP Government class in classic liberal vs. conservative fashion. But I knew this was one area I could show common ground. So I replied:
“I’m studying employee benefits for a professional exam, and I can tell you it’s made me thoroughly disgusted with how needlessly complex the federal rules for designing and maintaining retirement plans can be. There are a lot of reasons to not want a 401k style approach or to prefer others like an IRA but we shouldn’t have to have so many different options, often tied to an employer-sponsored plan. There’s got to be a simpler way to go. So yeah, another area where you and I sort of agree on something.”
What his brother saw was a liberal who didn’t see the big picture: “Government makes everything overly complex. It’s why it should be limited to only doing as much as necessary and no more. Government does nothing well. It’s incapable of it. Even the responsibilities only government can have, such as defense, are poorly executed and rife with fraud and waste. How somebody can see one inefficiency of government and not see them all is baffling to me.”
I was tempted to reply directly, but thought better than to start an argument. So here is what I would have said:
“I try to not make broad assumptions about policy areas of which I am not familiar, particularly when studies that do come out show there is often less fraud and waste in the public sector than in the private sector and that there would be even less waste if Congress allocated more dollars to enforcement of existing laws rather than tinkering around with new ones or with budget gimmicks. (For example, my understanding is the IRS scandal involving tea party groups came about partly through an attempt to prioritize enforcement actions due to under-funding. The solution Congress came up with for the scandal was to cut enforcement spending even more.) I would guess there is a lot unnecessary complication in government and in business, but that does not mean I think the underlying goal of either is without merit or that I can take one small area I do know about and apply what I learned from it to areas I don’t know anything about.”
Simplifying government is an admirable goal. Simplifying the problems in government to an ideological cliche won’t get us there.