In the locker room before the first practice of every new football season, legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi would assemble his team of world-class players, hold a football in the air, and begin the season by saying, “Gentleman, THIS is a football.”  Legendary for his commitment to mastering the basics, Coach Lombardi understood perhaps better than any leader of his day that success in any endeavor depends on mastering the core fundamentals.  Winning five NFL championships in his 10-year career as a head coach, Vince Lombardi’s words stand as a powerful reminder to us as Americans that to win in a global economy that is as demanding as the National Football League, we need to recommit ourselves to mastering the fundamentals of Liberty and economic prosperity that made America the envy of the world. 

As you move further into 2012, I ask you to consider three simple numbers: 50, 33, and 9.  These numbers represent the percentages of the European, US, and Chinese economies that are consumed by the programs of government.  From 2000-2008, fifty-percent of everything earned by citizens in Europe was transferred to government in the form of taxes.  In those same years, thirty-three percent of everything earned by Americans was transferred to government in the form of local, state, and federal taxes.  In communist China, however, only nine percent of the economy was consumed to fund government at all levels.  Imagine you were a young man playing football in the NFL and had the option of wearing a 50 pound football helmet, a 33 pound helmet, or 9 pound helmet, which would you choose?  Certainly, some well-meaning proponent of your personal safety would extol the virtues of a 50 pound football helmet, however, understanding the fundamentals of the game, which size helmet would championship players really choose to wear?  In the highly competitive environment of the NFL, the consequences of both inadequate protection and too much weight are severely punished on the playing field.  Likewise in the global economy, the cost of governing ourselves as a nation hangs like a weight around the necks of American businesses and workers who compete in a global marketplace with a rapidly growing pool of well educated, well resourced competitors.

Just as the lean Chinese economy has become the second largest in the world, the Euro zone countries of Italy, Greece, and Spain stand at the edge of total collapse under the weight of their public sector spending and debt.  The fiscal and economic death-spiral we have seen in Greece is a direct result of years of politicians not being able to say “no” to an ever-broadening base of voters who demand expansions of government jobs and programs in good years and government stimulus in lean years.  Having ignored their unsustainable levels of government spending for decades, 2011 was finally the year that Europeans were forced to confront the hard lesson that the laws of economics are just as inescapable as the Law of Gravity.  It has become clear to a watching world that, even in bourgeois Western Europe, public spending only redistributes wealth that is created in the private marketplace and that an economy that depends on government spending eventually must collapse.  What perhaps is most shocking is that the citizens of Greece have lost control of even their political destiny.  German and French banks who have loaned Greece money are now effectively calling the shots in Greek domestic affairs, demanding through the European Union austerity measures that Greek politicians are powerless to stop.

With this worldwide debt crisis being far from over, what course should America take as we make our election decisions of 2012?  Should we choose more or less government spending?  Should Americans accept the course that has taken us from 33 percent of the economy being spent on government in 2007, to 37 percent today, to above 40 percent as the current administration proposes?  Or should the US lighten its spending and debt load by moving in the other direction, back to the 25 percent and below that we enjoyed for much of the last half century?  With a crushing debt of our own, America has a decision to make in an economic Super Bowl of historic importance: smaller more accountable government or the creep towards a European welfare state.  The score to this game will play out over decades, with first downs being high tech start-ups and new factories coming to our communities; fumbles being jobs lost due to high taxation or an unprepared workforce.  Sometimes it will be hard to know which play to call from the huddle and even harder to keep score; however, if we stay committed to the basics of economics that only private sector businesses creating private sector jobs to serve private sector customers can ever create wealth, fund charities, or support the core functions of government, we can win this all important game to the betterment of everyone on the American team!  Get ready, get informed, and get involved; the playoffs started January 3 in the Iowa presidential caucuses.  With the championship game just 44 weeks later in the November 6 presidential election, I can say without a doubt – the stakes have rarely ever been higher.

Ed Setzler
State Representative
Georgia House of Representatives