Saturday, September 24, 2016

Red State Beggars

Who’d have thought it? It turns out that one of the main reasons the feds can’t balance its budget is that many of the states are hypocritical beggars and that the biggest beggars of all are the Republican-controlled states.

Wyoming politicians get elected by whining about the perceived slights, wrongs, and atrocities committed by Washington. They complain about the federal debt and make unsupported assertions about “waste and fraud.” The Governor of this cash-strapped state always finds enough money to pay high-priced lawyers to pursue lawsuits against Uncle Sam over everything from wolves to Obamacare to transgender bathrooms.  

Let’s face it. No state complains more about the “feds” than Wyoming and few states take more federal money than Wyoming. Only a dozen take more, but 37 states take far less. St. Jerome said it best in his 5th century Letter to the Ephesians, “Noli equi dentes inspicere donate,” meaning never inspect the teeth of a gift horse. It’s impolite. Wyoming politicians don’t just inspect the gift-horse’s teeth, they pull them before constituents can see how broken down are their decayed arguments about balanced budgets.

Take Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower. He thinks controlling the federal debt through the states-led balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution “is probably the most important issue that is going to face our state and the nation.”

Then with a whip in one hand and an outstretched palm of the other, Wyoming leads that gift horse to the federal trough. Wyoming lawmakers failed to diversify the state’s economy through yet another boom. All the while, they created a tax structure designed to serve the interests of the mineral industry, guaranteeing that when the inevitable bust came, our state would need even more federal welfare.

Most Wyoming legislators have never voted to turn away federal dollars. Oh, there’s the exception of those federal dollars that would provide healthcare for 18,000 low-income working people through Medicaid expansion. And there was that time in 2011 when legislators said no to 38 million federal dollars for extended unemployment benefits for the jobless. Legislators said those folks weren’t looking hard enough for then non-existent jobs and that they should just start a business.

Senator Charlie Scott is another example. While calling Medicaid “a welfare program” and leading the campaign to stop expansion he accepts thousands of federal dollars in agricultural subsidies. There are many other legislators who happily take federal agricultural subsidies and one, Sen. Eli Bebout (R-Fremont) who makes millions from Abandoned Mine Land contracts, all tainted federal money.

These Wyoming politicians nonetheless repeat this anti-Washington diatribe on an unbroken loop with no sense of irony. Perhaps Congress could balance its budget if states like Wyoming didn’t expect so much federal aid.

Then there’s this. The Tax Foundation has identified a partisan tint to the hypocrisy. “There is a very strong correlation,” the Foundation discovered, “between a state voting for Republicans and receiving more in federal spending than its residents pay to the federal government in taxes. In essence, those in blue states are subsidizing those in red states.”

It’s easy to be “fiscally conservative” knowing all that blue-state tax money flows into the state coffers. Easy, but hypocritical.

Oh yeah, the study also concluded that red states, those most critical of welfare programs, use the most food stamps.

These findings shed light on federal spending and the source of the national debt. Wyoming politicians are addicted to federal money except when it provides health care for poor and low-income working families. In that case alone they say they can’t trust the feds to pay up.

Wyoming trusts the feds to pay up in every other way. We rely on federal dollars to balance the state’s budget. The bottom line is red state Wyoming is dependent on the generosity of blue state taxpayers to do for us what our economy can’t do for itself and what legislators can’t do without the hated feds, pay the public’s bills.

A simple “thank you” would be in order.

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