There are those politicians and pundits who proclaim that it is all about "change." And then there are others who say that it is "experience" that counts. The drive-by media has had a field day on such topics as: "were they real tears or were the tears staged?" Or, it is a "fairy tale" campaign and a "plastic" demeanor. And some have asked, is it about gender, age, race, hair style and expensive haircuts? Has the Presidential campaign come down to personality and pettiness, perceptions rather than substance? There have been countless words spoken, an endless number of candidate debates, hundreds of slick ads, and the so-called partisan positions papers written by pandering campaign managers and political handlers. But we ask the question... in Walter Mondale fashion "Where is the beef?" --"beef" meaning policy substance.

Clearly, there are major policy issues which need to be clarified, debated, and decided upon NOW by the candidates. For openers, the candidates ought to be addressing such issues as... national security, illegal immigration, energy independence and alternative sources of alternative fuels, social security reform, affordable health care and related tort reform, and the size and reach of government. Today, in this column, we point to just one such issue: the increasing size of government.

Many believe that a small government sector, at all levels, is best. This was the clear intent of Americaís founding forefathers. The question is how small is small? Is 10 percent of the economy to government enough? How about 20, 30 or 40 percent? In other words, what share of our economyís national income should be controlled and dominated by federal, state, and local government? Many will answer that between "10 and 20 percent of the economy for spending, with near zero debt." Today however, government consumes 44 percent of the economy by its spending, plus another 13 percent for its unfunded regulatory mandates, thus, leaving less than half of the economy to the free market private sector. Think of it, 4.0/4.5 trillion dollars is controlled by federal, state, and local governments, which now is costing nearly 15 thousand dollars per man, woman, and child. For a family of four, the costs are now just a little less than $60,000 annually.

Of that figure, the costs of local, school, and state agencies have seen expansive growth to the tune of 1.8 trillion dollars annually or $6,140 per person per year. To note, the numbers of employees in local and state agencies across the Country have increased at a rate far in excess of the rate of growth in the national population. Any wonder that there are calls for greater efficiency in school consolidation, in agency partnerships, in the cutting of expenses, and in the elimination of excessive entitlements? What a shot in the arm there would be to all Americans if municipalities across this Country of ours were to engage in a three-point program to be achieved over a three year period. The Program would consist of: cutting nonessential costs, beginning with building a smarter balanced budget, and engaging in meaningful deficit reduction, through mergers and consolidations.

In the broad range, we have seen tax revenues and borrowing financing in all sorts of interventions. Since 1959, we have had the Great Society, the war on poverty, price controls, increasingly burdensome environmental regulations, the establishment of the burgeoning Department of Education, and its increasing federal control over local schools. The Federal Reserve has created recessions, agricultural price supports, minimum wage laws, and energy policies that keep oil and gasoline prices high.

And there is more when we talk about the size and REACH of government. We have seen labor policies increase the costs of hiring workers, driving down their take-home pay, trade restrictions and trade agreements that give the feds control over our international trade, massive increases in the welfare state, the drug war, endless pork-barrel spending, and the prosecution of businessmen for political gain.

The American voter overwhelmingly values lowering taxes and limiting public spending. However, point in fact, there are those candidates with an extremist agenda, who wish to confiscate even more monies from hardworking middle class Americans and from the most productive companies and industries in the nation and, by so doing, imperil the jobs of millions of American workers. These same officials then want to spend the confiscated funds on items on their own leftist agenda which, by the way, does not include national security. Low level extremist mentality is what decays the economic stability of the nation and destroys the economic viability of individual men and women. And that is what weakens the entire fabric of our American society. It was Alan Greenspan who said, "Tax increases become self-defeating by absorbing purchasing power and reducing work and investment incentives."

We challenge every political candidate to start putting balanced budgets ahead of their own agenda, to put the financial heath of the nation above political ambitions, and to recognize that government cannot continue compounding deficit after deficit. To be sure, immediate attention must be given to national security, illegal immigration, energy independence and alternative sources of alternative fuels, social security reform, and affordable health care. But now, more than ever, both parties and every candidate must address the serious risks of unsustainable deficits and develop plans to reduce the size and reach of the federal, state, and local government agencies. In many ways, the free market capitalist system and the individual is being strangulated by bureaucracy. Big government programs, which by the way are funded by the people, are inefficient and have minimal value. Individuals, within the free competitive enterprise system, are far more efficient in the careful use and investing in rightful and needful causes. In other words, freedom works; bureaucracy strangulates. Ronald Reagan had it right, "You canít be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy." That is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.