Like pigs waiting in line to get their snouts in the feeding trough, come many of the nation's governors -- on the heels of the mayors -- asking Washington for bailout money.
Democratic governors from overspending states like New York, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ohio are among those seeking financial deliverance. The governors want Washington to pony up $1 trillion for their absolutely-essential-non-negotiable-if-we-don't-get-the-money-people-will-starve programs.
New York Governor David Paterson claims that, because tax revenues have plunged, 43 states now have budget deficits totaling around $100 billion. No, those states have deficits because when times were good and the money was rolling in they thought they could get away with endless new programs, while putting little or no money aside for the inevitable rainy day. Neither did they consider which programs were necessary and which ones were just politically beneficial. Or, maybe they did and they opted for politically beneficial, thus creating their problem, and ours.
Notice the sleight of hand about to be perpetrated on hardworking taxpayers. In the end, it is we who pay for the plans of politicians who are unable, or unwilling, to control themselves when it comes to other peoples' money. When Republicans cut taxes, Democrats scream about growing deficits. But Democrats never worry about the deficit when they spend more than what the government takes in. So it really isn't about the deficit at all. It is about how much of our hard-earned money the Democrats, mostly, will allow us to keep. When you understand this, you understand everything about politics and politicians.
Every program created and sustained by Democrats (and increasingly some Republicans) must be kept. Once created, they must continue, no matter how unnecessary, outdated, or corrupt they become. The proof of eternal life is to be found in government programs, which are harder to kill than a vampire, another blood-sucking beast.
The incoming Obama administration wants to spend gobs of money on "infrastructure," creating government jobs that will end when the work is completed. Isn't infrastructure primarily supposed to be the work of state and local governments? Isn't the gasoline tax supposed to go to build and repair local roads and bridges? The federal responsibility should begin and end with the interstate highway system.
The governors' request for more money from Washington is also about unfunded mandates, the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid and a lot of other "entitlement" programs that could have been made solvent during the Bush administration, which tried, but was unable to succeed due to opposition from Democrats who preferred to have an issue rather than a solution.
It isn't that options, other than overspending and misspending, don't exist. The Heritage Foundation's Brian Riedel, Stuart Butler and others (heritage.org), the National Taxpayers Union (ntu.org) and Citizens Against Government Waste (cagw.org) have all written thoughtful and nonpartisan papers on the subject of government pork. The problem is that Democratic politicians (and too many Republican politicians, which is why the GOP is again in the minority) have refused to adopt them. Again, Democrats would rather foster a dependency on government so that people would be less self-reliant and more dependent on politicians for their current and future welfare.
This is a formula for socialism and for whatever political system follows to enforce it, though socialism advances even in our supposed constitutional republic. Anyone who relies less on themselves and more on government will see their freedoms erode. It has always been this way.
If this growing dependence on ever more costly and overreaching government continues, we may have to change the familiar letter abbreviation for this country from USA to ATM.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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