Iain Murray is the author of the book, “Stealing You Blind: How Government Fat Cats Are Getting Rich Off Of You,” released Monday.
Murray, Vice President for Strategy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, recently agreed to answer 10 questions from The Daily Caller about his new book.
1. Why did you decide to write the book?
Ever since I arrived in the United States (I’m an immigrant from Great Britain, where I was a government employee), all my dealings with American bureaucracy have convinced me that the system isn’t run for the benefit of the taxpayer or the recipient of government services, but for the benefit of the bureaucracy itself. With government sucking up a third of the economy — half if you include the cost of regulation — we are left with a system that really amounts to a massive swindle on the American people.
2. What are some of the more outlandish programs our government is spending money on?
Where do you start? There are grant programs to study how sick shrimp react on treadmills or feed cocaine to monkeys to find — surprise, surprise —that they get addicted to it. Other grants have been used to organize a robot hoedown and to study how Farmville affects social relationships. Those are small beer compared to things like High Speed Rail, however — which isn’t high speed and no one will use. That’s pretty outlandish when you think about it.
3. While those examples of government waste will certainly make headlines, they are not really what threatens our long-term economic health. What programs are really killing us fiscally?
If you add all the congressional pork projects together you get $30 billion annually — a lot of money. But our big entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security — cost us $2 trillion, and are going to cost a lot more. Then there’s the cost of the regulations government imposes on us —$1.75 trillion a year. In a $12 trillion economy, that represents a significant portion of our national wealth.
4. What numbers frighten you the most about America’s current fiscal path?
It’s the entitlement programs that are the real issue. The Congressional Budget Office projects that by 2050, they’ll soak up 18.4 percent of GDP between them, which is almost exactly how much the federal government raises in revenue. So we won’t have any money to spend on discretionary projects, like the military, without significant tax increases. Let’s not forget that we also have a $4 trillion unfunded liability in the form of state and local public pension commitments, and the money for that will have to come from somewhere unless that problem gets tackled.
5. What do you think is the proper role of our federal government?
I believe government exists to secure our liberties, which it does by defending us from violence, persuading other governments to foster free trade, and to provide a court system for redress of grievances between citizens. I think that the U.S. Constitution provides a great framework for doing just that.