WHY IT MATTERS: The Role of Government

It’s the Goldilocks conundrum of American politics: Is the federal government too big, too small or just right?

Few think it’s just right. Ever since the first Americans bucked their colonial overlords in Britain, America has been wrestling with the delicate balance between a government that creates opportunity and one that inhibits it.

Every four years, the presidential election offers a referendum on whether Washington should do more or less. Traditionally, Republicans have been viewed as the party of smaller government. This year, it’s not so simple.

It’s no secret Donald Trump likes things huuuuge. Whether that applies to Uncle Sam remains to be seen.

Trump favors cutting government regulation that he says stifles businesses. He’s talked about doing away with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Education Department. Trump has also promised massive tax cuts, but fiscal conservatives flinch at the trillions of dollars his plan is expected to heap onto the national debt.

Unlike most conservatives, Trump supports eminent domain — the government’s right to seize property with compensation. He wants to replace “Obamacare,” but has said government-run health care “could have worked in a different age.” And don’t forget that gigantic Mexico border wall he wants to build, estimated to cost taxpayers billions. Trump says it’ll be Mexican taxpayers footing the bill, a claim his critics and Mexico laugh off.

Hillary Clinton hasn’t focused heavily on cutting government spending in her campaign either. To the contrary, she’s vowed new spending on college education, infrastructure and other programs that could grow the size of government. While Clinton has said taxes would go up for the wealthy to help pay for it, independent analyses have shown her plans would increase the debt in the long term.

On the other hand, Clinton’s vision for government is a far cry from that of Bernie Sanders, her defeated primary opponent whose plans for education and health care would have caused government to swell if implemented.

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