Ross Mackenzie

SCHWARZENEGGER pleads that California needs at least a partly federal solution to a largely federal problem. He says (a) the feds owe California because Californians send more money to Washington than they receive from it. And (b) federal mandates (for e.g. Medicaid) require California to spend money it doesn't have. He adds that the federal effort to socialize medicine will only make the situation worse, given that what began as a "noble" health reform effort has become a "trough of special bribes, deals, and loopholes."

Socialize -- isn't that a harsh word? No indeed, and never mind lefty objections to its use. For we are speaking here of two fundamental things: (1) the tendency of government to enter where it has no legitimate business (such as the nation's hospitals and doctors' offices), and (2) the failure of government to make hard choices on spending cuts to balance their budgets.

Only government can practice socialism, and when it does its record is awful.

SO WE NOW have bankrupt states such as California asking a bankrupt federal government (President Obama, Madam Pelosi, et al. have tripled the deficit while increasing domestic discretionary spending 24 percent since the last full-year Bush administration budget in fiscal 2008) to underwrite them in their spendthrift ways.

We don't want to make the necessary cuts, the states are saying, and to raise taxes to necessary budget-balancing levels would make the taxpayer-voters mad -- and have us soon flipping burgers. So to keep on keeping on (and to retain our jobs and power and perks), we need more federal handouts from the nation's single entity that does not have to balance its budget.

Such reasoning defines a dependent socialism that has no defensible role in a land of self-reliant liberty. I'll make the choices, it says, denying Friedman's dictum, and someone else will fund them -- someone else will pay for my lunch so it still will be free to me. Oh, and that someone had better leave a big tip.

The liberal, leftist, socialist -- whatever -- is notably efficient at but one thing: giving away things that are not his (or hers). Yet Britain's former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher saw through it all with Friedmanesque clarity: The trouble with socialism, she said, is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money.

The bare and deficit-infested federal cupboard may be the fundamental reality the states just now are beginning to confront.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

Be the first to read Ross Mackenzie's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.