Last Updated:November 28 @ 07:44 am

Rasmussen: The Heavy Burden of Government

By Scott Rasmussen

In my hometown, everyone is required to have a landline telephone so local officials can reach us with a reverse 911 call.

It's a nice idea, but it doesn't work. In my family, we never use the landline. We talk on cellphones. Occasionally, telemarketers call. So do people looking for someone named "Danny," but we no longer answer. So, if a call came from our local government, we'd never hear their message. But when you're building a house and need to pass inspection, it's easier to put in the phone than fight city hall.

Overall, 68 percent of Americans believe there are too many unnecessary laws in the United States today. A majority of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters all recognize the problem.

Most excess laws are just a nuisance and not a real problem. But there are plenty of horror stories where individual lives are ruined for technical violations of unknown and unnecessary laws. Sometimes the harassment is aimed at a particular citizen; sometimes it's just bureaucracy gone wild.

In his 2009 book, "Three Felonies a Day," civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate shows that "prosecutors can pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior."

That's one reason 51 percent now believe that the government is more of a threat to individual rights than a protector of them. It's why people react so negatively to nanny-state proposals like banning the sale of large sugary drinks. Just 24 percent support that idea.

Encountering unnecessary laws is just one reason people have come to see government in America as a burden. Half (50 percent) believe more government involvement makes society less fair. Only 22 percent believe it increases fairness.

Government is also seen as a burden on the economy. And this extends beyond the heavy cost of taxation. Every entrepreneur can share war stories of overcoming government-imposed obstacles to succeed.

Here's a basic point that many politicians miss: Just because a problem exists doesn't mean people want the government to fix it. For example, 69 percent believe executives at major companies get paid too much, but only 17 percent want the government to regulate their pay.

To hold people and companies accountable, Americans believe in competition more than government. By a 2-to-1 margin, people believe more competition and less regulation is the way to fix the financial system. By a 3-to-1 margin, they say the same about health care. That's because competition puts consumers in charge, while regulation puts bureaucrats in charge.

Put it all together, and it's easy to understand why 66 percent believe that the best thing government could do to help the economy is cut spending. Americans have come to view the government as a burden that is weighing down the economy and the nation.

This is not an anti-government attitude, it's simply a desire to have government play its proper role in society. Too many politicians, from both political parties, believe the government's job is to run the country. A healthier view is to recognize that our government was designed to play a support role rather than take the lead.

As I wrote in my book "In Search of Self-Governance," the American people do not want to be governed from the left, the right or the center. They want to govern themselves.


To find out more about Scott Rasmussen, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit



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  1. bna42Comment by bna42
    August 3, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

    “This is not an anti-government attitude, it’s simply a desire to have government play its proper role in society.”

    This is exactly the foundation and basis of the TEA party, but the opposition has viciously lied about them, saying they are anti-government and want to abolish all government.

    We are in a battle between ideologies. One group wants to retain the freedom and individual responsibility that this nation was founded on while the other group wants to totally annihilate our founding documents and create a nanny state of socialism.

    The people who are unhappy with a nation that has survived over 200 years just fine without their transformation should just leave and find a socialist country where they can be happy instead of hanging around just to make everyone else miserable.

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    • siquijorislandComment by siquijorisland
      August 4, 2012 @ 1:20 am

      better yet anyone can make mindless criticisms.
      Get them to stay with real ideas to make what we have now work better.

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  2. Mary SComment by Mary S
    August 3, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

    ” We’re after power and we mean it. There is no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

    - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

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  3. thedoveComment by thedove
    August 3, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

    “a nation that has survived over 200 years just fine without their transformation”

    It’s odd but true that so many otherwise intelligent people can’t grasp this simple point.

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  4. camzComment by camz
    August 3, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

    Too many laws = Tyranny. Liberal fascism in government( Chicago Mayor, for example) = Tyranny
    Strangling free speech = Tyranny Government waste = Tyranny. . Life/death panels = Tyranny.
    If and when they over-impose their Tyrany, they will awaken a sleeping giant………they won’t like what comes next. They will discover the same will, the will that makes us exceptional, the will that culled our oppressors from our shores when our country was born. Politicians, left and right, better fix what they have screwed up. If the people have to fix it, the process will be ugly.


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  5. braines57Comment by braines57
    August 3, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

    Politicians should all view the overwhelming citizen response to the controversy they created over just one American company and realize that the same people who participated in that event will show up en masse in Washington before they will relinquish their constitutional rights to freedom from government intervention. The day is fast approaching when the still-armed citizenry, despite all government attempts to thwart the same, will arise and stand up for the same freedom as our founding fathers. Politicians beware – you know who you are and you should be very afraid of the true patriots.

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    • camzComment by camz
      August 3, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

      What she said……

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  6. joconnor6Comment by joconnor6
    August 3, 2012 @ 3:47 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Rasmussen, for those stats. Sometimes it feels like we are beating our heads against the brick wall and that no one hears or cares. That’s the MSM for you. It’s good to know that there are so many of us who still care and are willing to do something about it.

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  7. grannylakeComment by grannylake
    August 3, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

    How can someone originate a 911 call from a nonexistant landline phone that would require a reverse 911 call from local officials?

    What am I missing here? Are there places where the local officials actually call the residents when the officials declare an emergency?

    When my town has a weather emergency, we have a siren.

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  8. thedoveComment by thedove
    August 3, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

    “How can someone originate a 911 call from a nonexistant landline phone that would require a reverse 911 call from local officials?”

    One doesn’t. What you’re missing is the call originates in the emergency center, not from the landline owner. If police are looking for a suspect in a particular section of our county, for example, the “reverse 9-1-1″ system will originate calls to people living in that section, advising them to remain indoors and be sure all doors and windows are locked, be on the lookout for suspicious activity, etc. Just one example, there are other uses. If you don’t have a land line, you can’t get the call, obviously, which is why it’s mandatory in his area.

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    • grannylakeComment by grannylake
      August 3, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

      Thanks for the clarification. I didn’t know that service existed.

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  9. mrblint888Comment by mrblint888
    August 3, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

    “A nation that survived for over 200 years” — as I recall, we had a civil war. Regional differences divided the nation then and are dividing the nation now.

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    • CharlieComment by vietnamvet
      August 3, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

      Yes, there was a civil war.
      The nation survived it.
      What don’t you understand about that?

      The divisions present today are not regional differences as much as they are class differences. And, they are being exacerbated by those who WANT the divisions to weaken the country.

      A poor man will hate a rich man if he knows he will never be rich. But he will admire the rich man if he is working to get there, himself.

      The ‘haters’ are many and, because their livlihood is given to them, they are to content to continue to hate instead of expending the effort to inprove their condition.
      They feel righteous in that choice because so many ‘dividers’ encourge them to make it.

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    • bulldogComment by bulldog
      August 3, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

      And there may be another civil war in the making. It may take many years to come, maybe not even in my lifetime, but if the current trends continue I am confident that a civil war will be the only way to stop this bs.

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  10. JDZComment by JDZ
    August 3, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

    It is sad to see how well these communist/socialist/ Marxist activists have infiltrated so much of our country. They have control of our entertainment industry including the MSM, our academic system, our financial system, and our judicial system to a large extent. They control states like California and New York and the cities in these states. They are working in collusion with the national labor unions to create a broadened socialist environment with more and more Americans on the public dole. It is socialism at work. It remains to be seen whether or not there are enough Americans not caught up in this race toward socialism and the huge nanny state to keep Obama fom getting re-elected.

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  11. mrblint888Comment by mrblint888
    August 3, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

    I think a Living Minimum Wage might put an end to The Dole. LMW = a wage where on two salaries at 40 hrs per week a couple could raise a family.

    If there were a Living Minimum Wage and it was tied to the Top Tax Rate, the higher the Living Minimum Wage, the lower the Top Tax Rate (and all rates below it), then almost all of the social programs aimed at ending poverty and drug-dependence and inner-city street violence might go away, as would the cost of prisons.

    Poverty is tearing this nation into two: the people who thing government should do something about it, and the people who think it can be solved by the free market.

    To end that division, we have to end Poverty, and the best way to end poverty is to make work worth it.

    Nobody should have to work for chicken feed.

    The Living Minimum Wage: something free-marketers and socialists can agree on.

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    • bna42Comment by bna42
      August 3, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

      “I think a Living Minimum Wage might put an end to The Dole.”

      You are obviously unschooled in economics. Don’t you realize that the only people working for minimum wage are those in entry level jobs and those who refused to get an education in order to be productive? Don’t you realize that whenever the minimum wage is increased, the cost of everything goes up? I have seen the minimum wage go from $1.65 an hour to $7.50 an hour, but poverty has not been eliminated and as a matter of fact is higher now than ever. The federal government has been engaged in the “war on poverty” since LBJ and the 60′s, but there has been no improvement. So your theory of a “living wage” is incorrect.

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    • bulldogComment by bulldog
      August 3, 2012 @ 9:25 pm


      We have had a Federal Minimum since 1938, and it has not worked. When minimum wage goes up prices go up. Get educated about the facts before you post.

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    • canada3dayerComment by canada3dayer
      August 6, 2012 @ 2:13 am

      last May Walter Williams had an excellent column about why having a minimum wage is a bad idea. read it here.

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  12. doskiComment by doski
    August 3, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

    I added Call forwarding to my landline and set my phone to forward to . . . . . wait for it . . . . . 911.

    Now when Sales people call me they get the 911 operator. When 911 calls me they get to talk with one-another !

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    • msheilmanComment by msheilman
      August 4, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

      That’s wrong of you; you’re tying up emergency call-takers in a frivolous action. 911 exists for emergencies; telemarket calls are hardly an emergency, and considering how many sales call I receive and ignore, that’s an unnecessary burden you’re passing on to 911. (I work in emergency medical services.)

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  13. tin01Comment by tin01
    August 3, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

    Where in the world does anyone have to have a landline? This is nuts!

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  14. jmccarthy1Comment by jmccarthy1
    August 3, 2012 @ 9:23 pm

    The biggest advantage to a land line is they still work when the local power goes out, assuming all your phones aren’t cordless phones, which depend on Commerical power. You MUST have at least one “old fashoned” corded phone. Phone company central offices have battery backup plus emergency generators to bypass local power when they fail. When the power goes out the first thing people do is get on the phone-cell phone- and run the battery down and with no power you can’t re-charge the batteries. With obama in charge this could become a Real Issue. Unless you have a box full of charged, spare cell phone batteries and/or a backup generator you are out of touch.

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    • bulldogComment by bulldog
      August 3, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

      I can charge my cell phone in my car.

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  15. jdb121Comment by jdb121
    August 4, 2012 @ 6:53 am

    Although a firm believer in individual freedom and the responsible exercise of it, the issues that have involved the freedom and right to choose which have been problematic for many years and over which Americans are seriously divided, to the detriment of the country, are drug use and enforcement of drug laws, the choice to immigrate illegally to the U.S., a woman’s “right to choose” before sex, before conception and before abortion has to be an option, the LGBT agenda and activities, and the draft for military service because “freedom is not free,” and expressions of religious freedom. In all of these issues, the violation of the law is a cost factor to society as a whole, whereas, if the laws were strictly obeyed and enforced, the costs would be minimal. Liberals use all of the aforementioned problems as political tools, in fundamental violation of the law. Conservatives are much more consistent in their opposition to natural causality that plays a role in any justification for violation of the law or changing the law so that people are not in violation of it, another tactic the left has used.
    The seriousness of the division over the issue of personal liberty is exemplified by events which have caused and characterized the war on terror. There is no substitute for commonality, discrimination and unity in the face of the security problems which result from diversity. We need to resist change that is unAmerican to the extent that it does not protect the foundations of law, which, in turn, protect the citizenry, which have served us well for much of American history. It is the inconsistency in logic exercised by liberals with regard to choice which makes their solutions unacceptable.

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  16. noveldogComment by noveldog
    August 4, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    Basically there is but one set of laws that define us. That set of laws are the Ten Commandments. If we try to live by them many of our problems would evaporate and dissolve like the morning mist before the bright rising sun.

    Put God and Christ back in school. Teach the Golden rule and the changes that occur will be nothing short of miraculous.

    If God wanted us to be SLAVES he would not have lead his chosen people out of Egypt. We enslave ourselves by making too many laws, and not abiding by hardly any of them.

    Vote to end Slavery vote Republican. God bless America!

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