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Lee Hamilton '52 Writes of "Powerful Forces That Keep Government Growing"

July 14, 2011

93515July 14, 2011, Greencastle, Ind. — "Our political leaders are arguing about more than staving off a government shutdown or raising the debt ceiling or even cutting government spending," writes Lee Hamilton. "They're really arguing about the size, scope and ambitions of the federal government. This has been an underlying bone of contention since the nation's birth," asserts the veteran statesman and 1952 graduate of DePauw University in a newspaper op-ed.

"There are powerful forces that keep government growing: wars, defense, entitlements, the bureaucracy, lobbyists in the private sector pounding the halls of Congress for government favors, and of course, the American people, who expect a great deal from government," writes Hamilton, who served 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and later co-chaired the 9/11 Commission and Iraq Study Group.

"Democrats, on the whole, tend to see nothing wrong with federal activity and often want to extend its reach. But even many Republicans, while they don't like taxes, have still pushed for growth in the public sector, whether it's the military or a Medicare drug prescription plan. All this is aided by the usual response to national challenges: a commission of bright, well-meaning individuals who carefully study the matter and recommend new government spending to combat cancer or rein in flooding on the Mississippi River."

The Democrat asks, "How does this get turned around? I suspect the answer, despite all the political fireworks, lies not in any grand legislative solution that will resolve all our fiscal woes in a single package, but in incremental changes that in time can make a difference. Some will be politically difficult, such as reforms to entitlement programs, cuts to programs that have definite constituencies but may not be central to the national interest and privatizing services to serves the public's needs and boost efficiency. Others are politically simpler, but difficult to implement: reforming the federal government so that it is better managed, more technologically 98194adept, more efficient, able to deliver services as leanly as the private sector, far more transparent and -- in the words that every politician loves to use but has trouble putting into practice -- able to do more with less."

You'll find the complete essay at the website of the Times Herald of Port Huron, Michigan.

Lee H. Hamilton is now the director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. Hamilton returned to DePauw on March 15 to address "The U.S. Role in the World After Afghanistan and Iraq" in a Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture.  A summary including video clips can be accessed here.

As an undergraduate, Hamilton majored in history and was a star player on the Tiger basketball team.  He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982 and the DePauw Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987.

Learn more about Lee Hamilton in this recent story.

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