THE BLOG
09/21/2010 07:02 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

What's Ken Buck's Plan for Moving Major Federal Programs to the States and the Private Sector?

Reporters seem to be having a hard time figuring out Ken Buck.

His statements on key issues are at odds with each other, and this has left some reporters, like local TV fact checkers, disagreeing about what some of his real beliefs are.

I have sympathy for these reporters. How do you sort out a guy who says we should "immediately flip the switch" on the Department of Education one day, and then calls for slowly phasing out the Department the next?

How does a reporter reconcile Buck's view that government shouldn't be in the retirement or health arenas at all with his view that we have an obligation to make Social Security and Medicare work for our seniors?

To give the public a better handle on how Buck thinks about these issues, reporters should take a few minutes to learn what he thinks about the U.S. Constitution and the intent of the founders.

Speaking to a Tea Party group in December Buck made it clear that we need to honor what he sees as the intent of the founders, which was to keep the federal government small. Watch the entire short video here.

"We have for 70 or 80 years put ourselves in a bind where we have grown government in a way that's inconsistent with the way the founding fathers saw the government," Buck said. "And I'm not ready to say unconstitutional because the Supreme Court, according to our constitutional structure, is the decision-maker on whether something is constitutional or not. It has said it is constitutional. It's certainly not consistent with what I think the founding fathers intended. But I'm not sure it's unconstitutional at this point. But that's semantics."

"And so," Buck continued, "I think we need to recognize what the federal government shouldn't be doing, and we need to develop a plan to move those programs into the state and the private sector. But again, it isn't going to happen overnight."

This view of the federal government gone awry, going back to the New Deal, explains how Buck can be so hostile toward, for example, Social Security, Medicare, and the Department of Education--and yet not want to flip the switch on all of them (though he has said this about the Education Department, perhaps because his primary opponent was ready to shutter it immediately.)

Buck's recipe for how he would scale back the New Deal initiatives and other federal programs may help resolve the dispute among reporters about whether Buck really thinks Social Security is constitutional or not, much less "horrible" policy. It may well be that Buck was literally speaking his mind when he said, "I don't know whether it's constitutional or not," if he reduces the distinction to mere semantics, while Social Security itself is "fundamentally against what I believe" since it would be one of those government programs that have put us "in a bind" in the last 80 years.

People need help understanding how Buck would get us to the world where major federal programs, like Social Security and Medicare, are privatized and the states have more control.

What's Buck's plan to create a government consistent with Buck's view of the intent of the founders? What are the details? How many years until he could see Social Security and Medicare being fully privatized and out of the control of the federal government? How long until the Education Department is cut back and returned to the states, and which programs would be cut outright in the long term and which put in state control?

These and other questions spring forth from BigMedia's question of the week for reporters:

What's Ken Buck's plan for moving major federal programs to the state and private sectors?

Partial transcript of Ken Buck discussing the U.S. Constitution and the size of government December 6,2009, at a Tea Pary gathering.

We have for 70 or 80 years put ourselves in a bind where we have grown government in a way that's inconsistent with the way the founding fathers saw the government. And I'm not ready to say unconstitutional because the Supreme Court, according to our constitutional structure, is the decision-maker on whether something is constitutional or not. It has said it is constitutional. It certainly not consistent with what I think the founding fathers intended. But I'm not sure it's unconstitutional at this point. But that's semantics. I think your point is government has grown beyond where it should be, in ways that in shouldn't be, and I agree with you. And I think the key is to find ways over time to reduce programs and privatize programs and return programs to the states.

But what about that kid with student loans who couldn't go to college otherwise. Are we really going to say for 70 years we've had student loans, and that is an unconstitutional program, and now you can't go to college? Or are we going to find a way to move from where we are now, which is wrong, to a system that recognizes human behavior and human needs and let the states take over these programs in a thoughtful way. And so I think we need to recognize what the federal government shouldn't be doing and we need to develop a plan to move those programs into the state and the private sector. But again, it isn't going to happen overnight. We didn't get into this problem overnight and we aren't going to solve this problem over night. And people who say we are going to solve it overnight are either ignorant or lying to you. And it's very frustrating to have those people out there with simplistic answers to these very complex problems.