by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Admit it: You’re hoping the state of Colorado jumps to conclusions and makes your book a bestseller based on the title.
Jim Geraghty: If confused stoners drive The Weed Agency to the bestseller list, I won’t complain. I should probably start claiming that the book was printed on rolling paper. They’re probably the demographic most likely to forget to return it and ask for a refund.
Lopez: You write, “Everyone who comes to Washington intending to cut the government comes with some other goal as well — defense, abortion, schools, whatever. And everyone who likes the government the way it is has gotten very, very skilled at figuring out how to get us to focus on the other stuff.” Is it really all that bad?
Geraghty: I’m not sure if it’s bad so much as it’s reality. Sometimes that other stuff is really important — Ronald Reagan came to Washington aiming to win the Cold War as well as reduce the cost and size of government; 9/11 obviously completely overwrote the original agenda of George W. Bush’s presidency. As presidencies and congressional careers progress, some priorities inevitably squeeze out other priorities. Cutting spending has one of the worst effort-to-reward ratios in governing. You don’t get to name federal facilities after yourself, you don’t get ribbon-cutting ceremonies and boasts of jobs created. You don’t get to brag in campaign ads that you created a program to solve some problem. You don’t create a constituency that wants to see that spending continue and get you reelected in order to ensure that that spending continues. You put yourself at risk of attack ads declaring you cut something that’s popular and beloved. So the natural incentive for lawmakers, even conservative ones, is to focus on other issues and topics where there is better return on the investment of time and effort.