National Suicide: How Washington Is Destroying the American Dream from A to Z, Martin L. Gross, Berkley Books (2009).

 The book begins with a 50-page essay in the vein that the country has been on the road to ruin since the presidency of Harry Truman, follows with 44 essays on various specific problems, and ends with a note to a current president on “how to better govern America.”

Among other things, the author advocates reorganizing the government from top to bottom, reducing federal expenditures by about one-third, cuting taxes, eliminating the alternative minimum tax, getting over the nonsense about taxing carbon emissions, recruiting better teachers for U.S. schools, and reversing the influx of illegal immigrants.  “There is no other course if we are to save America from national suicide.”

As an inventory of national problems, this book represents a good effort.  Many of the points may be familiar, but most readers will learn some things.  For example, we had never realized and/or reflected on (a) how the federal government came to own so much of the land in Western states, (b) the possible benefits of requiring future teachers to study anything but “education” in college, (c) how Connecticut cut local government overhead by abolishing all counties in the state, and (d) the downside of having so many states use caucuses (often with very limited participation) in their presidential primaries. 

But we disagree with some of the author’s suggestions, such as (1) imposing a retaliatory tax on Chinese imports that could spark a global trade war (it would make far more sense to help U.S. manufacturers by cutting the corporate tax rate and eliminating needless regulations), (2) having the federal government take over the U.S. school system, and (3) replacing the welfare programs he decries with cash grants on the assumption that this is how to eliminate poverty.

Additionally, the game plan for reform is superficial.  No president could be expected to take the author’s suggestions and run with them; they simply do not represent an actionable agenda.  Furthermore, there would have to be buy-in from many people besides the president to get anything constructive done. 

Awareness is a start, however, and this book may contribute in that respect.  As stated in the introduction, it is dedicated to helping “the voters learn the truth about Washington” so they will “be able to think intelligently about a government that is robbing its citizens of their treasure, their personal confidence, and their self-respect.”

As we understand it, the author came out of retirement to write this book – basically an update of “The Government Racket 2000: All New Washington Waste from A to Z” – because he felt the situation was continuing to deteriorate.  Good for him!