I'd love to see Barney Frank get his own TV show (are you listening, Al Gore?) because he has such a knack for powerful, straightforward arguments in favor of liberalism. Today he took part in what This Week with Christiane Amanpour headlines as "The Great American Debate: There's Too Much Government In My Life," along with Robert Reich and Republican intellectual "heavyweights" (of course, I use the term ironically) George Will and Rep. Paul Ryan. This is from Barney's intro:
AMANPOUR: Congressman Ryan, thank you very much. And Congressman Barney Frank, your opening minute and a half.
FRANK: Yes, we have too much government, and yes, we have too little government. There is this mistaken view that says, you know, we have a fight between the people's money and the government's money. It's all the people's money. The question is, as people, intelligently, we have two sets of needs. We have needs that we best pursue individually, with money for ourselves and our families. And we can make personal choices. But then there are things that we have to do together.
I understand the appeal of tax cuts, but in all my years of government, I have never seen a tax cut put out a fire. I have never seen a tax cut build a bridge or clean up toxic atmosphere.
The point is that there are some things where we are inevitably together. We are interlocked in the economy. We're all subject to the same environment, we all have the same public safety needs. And there, I think, we have sometimes had too little government.
On the other hand, and my conservative friends who claim that they are for small government are the ones
who tell us that an adult shouldn't be able to gamble on the Internet. We have the leading judicial conservative, Antonin Scalia, absolutely in a snit because you can't be sent to jail if you have personal sexual relations of which he does not approve. We have a series of interventions by the conservatives in those choices that should be left to individuals.
So my conservative friends have it absolutely backwards. I do want there to be regulation so that you don't have the kind of manipulation in the financial area that leads to crises. And I do want to be able to clean up the environment. No matter how rich you are, you can't get your own air to breathe.
On the other hand, as I said, there are overreaches by the conservatives. And by the way, they include militarily. I think we have a wonderful military, full of able young people, very well equipped, and they can stop bad things from happening. But they're not really good at making good things happen in foreign societies. And it's on the whole my conservative friends who want us to be rebuilding other societies where we're not very good at it. So the answer is yes, we should have more government where we need in an interactive way to protect ourselves against abuses, but there should be more personal choice. And so that's the -- that's the current situation.
And so my answer is yes, I want more government involved in economic regulation and environmental cleanup and for reasons of public safety. I want less government telling me what personal choices to make as an individual.