While I love working in this venue, I also cherish how I get to stretch my writing wings on various subjects of national importance thanks to my longtime employment as part of The Patriot Post. Thus, last Friday I got the opportunity to take a swing at one of my favorite subjects, that of government dependence.
In this case, however, I was looking at the issue on a personal level. And while that is extremely important, we shouldn’t forget that it can happen on a local and state government level as well. And that brings me to a topic I was alerted to recently.
According to Charlie Copeland at the Caesar Rodney Institute, the state of Delaware has a “shadow budget” estimated at $7.5 billion, and it’s money which is “almost entirely comprised of Federal funds in the form of grants for hundreds of projects in dozens of our state agencies as well as our colleges and universities.” (The quote comes from a related “exclusive interview” the CRI released in e-mail form, with much of the same information.)
The very important piece of context for this is that Delaware has a state budget (at least the one officially on the books) of about $5 billion, which is the smallest state budget in the country. If you added this $7.5 billion “shadow budget,” though, it’s no longer at the bottom and, on a per capita basis, it now becomes larger than adjacent Maryland’s – where (I believe) both state expenditures and federal pass-throughs are listed in their $50+ billion budget. In fact, Delaware could easily fall into the top 10 in highest per-capita spending, although that depends on how each of the other states treat federal contributions to state budgets. It’s likely there are other states whose budget reporting in skewed in similar fashion; it’s a scope I’m not going to get into right now.
My point is that state and local governments have fallen into a trap that no one seems to have the will to extricate themselves from. By taking that federal (or, in the case of local government, state) largesse they avoid making the difficult decision of balancing a budget or raising taxes to do so. And if it’s enough, they can take the credit and keep the voters happy – if not they have a convenient scapegoat to blame. (Case in point: the staffing controversy in Delmar after the death of DPD Corporal Keith Heacook.)
Certainly there are aspects of government only suitable for handling at the federal level, but generally these are performed by federal employees. Where the feds overstep their bounds is those times when they hand out money to the states, expecting them to follow along in lockstep by enacting desired policies. Since no one wants to give up the federal funding, they follow along dutifully like a dog on a leash.
What the federal government needs is a reformer who both understands the Tenth Amendment and knows that many millions of federal employees, lobbyists, and other beggars and hangers-on really need a productive gig. The world needs ditchdiggers, too. Sadly, we are stuck going in the opposite direction for the time being.
Programming note: Speaking of wing spreading, today was my last Friday piece for The Patriot Post and it was on a somewhat related topic. But it’s not the end for me there.
I don’t know if this is a promotion or just a lateral move, but they have asked me to write on Tuesday nights for Wednesday publication and I agreed to do so. I suspect my first Wednesday piece will come next week.