In Tuesday's State of the Union address, President Obama put forth at least one initiative that is useful, should arouse bipartisan support and deserves to be taken much further than he suggested. I am talking about his plan to force federal contractors to pay workers a minimum of $10.10 per hour, instead of the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
Why, you may ask, is this initiative so useful? Well, let me explain. By voluntarily paying higher prices for some goods and services the federal government procures, without clamoring for new appropriations, Obama is effectively reducing the size of government. Paying prices that are 40 percent higher than before, without the corresponding massive budget expansion, brings down the amount of goods and services acquired by almost 30 percent. And Obama believes this to be a good idea. I am sure that even conservative tea party members who are opposed to most of the president's agenda will welcome this development.
The ball is in their court now. Let them take the president's plan, and the underlying reasoning, seriously. If, as the president believes, 30 percent of what the federal government does, outside of writing checks to people and defending the nation's safety, is useless, then why not just get rid of it? 30 percent of domestic non-defense discretionary spending equals some $200 billion, so Obama's plan would shave about $2 trillion off total expenditures over the next decade, almost a sixth of the national debt. Conservatives should embrace this opening with enthusiasm.
'Tis quite the evolution the president has gone through. A mere year ago, he was painting doomsday scenarios about the impact of the sequester, and only a few months ago he worried aggressively about the impact of the government shutdown. Of course, nothing disastrous actually happened and pandas continued to fail to procreate. It is heartwarming to observe that the president learned from those experiences, and is now ready to make drastic cuts to the size and scope of federal government programs.