December 30, 2021
You’d have to go all the way back to the Reagan years to find a time in recent history when federal money to states didn’t grow every year. But 2009 marked a turning point when, thanks to the stimulus bill following the housing loan implosion, federal money became the state and local governments’ largest source of income. It’s no wonder liberals loved that stimulus bill. It finally turned the 50 states into the 50 welfare states. It gave the federal government unprecedented power over state and local policy decisions, and they’ve been trying to maintain and expand that situation ever since. That’s how we get monstrosities like an “infrastructure” bill that spends only a fraction of the money on actual infrastructure.
As a governor for 10 years, I saw that giving handouts isn’t the best solution to poverty, and taking handouts isn’t the best source of state funds. The fact is that nothing is as costly as “free” federal money. Just as too much sugar rots your teeth, all that federal sugar not only creates dependence, it warps priorities. Soon, local officials start making decisions based not on what’s best for their communities but on what will keep the DC dollars flowing. For instance, if parents despise Critical Race Theory, but the feds want it and they’re handing out education dollars, guess what gets taught to your kids?
State officials who reject free federal money take a lot of heat. But would you call someone stupid for saying no to a free sample from a drug dealer?
You might say I’m exaggerating. But I was not only a governor, I also served as chairman of the National Governors’ Association. I had a bird’s eye view of all the other states’ relations with Washington, too. I soon discovered that so-called “free federal money” comes with more strings than a Beethoven symphony. Just like the drug dealer and the sucker, any state that signed on to a big new program like Obamacare based on a promise of federal money to pay for it was likely to end up holding the bag when the feds cut off the freebies after a lot of people became dependent on it.
The Obamacare bait and switch was nothing new. This same game has been played over and over, with Medicare, unemployment, education, infrastructure funds, you name it. It happens under Republican Presidents as well as Democrats. States give up local control in exchange for federal money, then are forced to accept policies that might not be in their best interests to keep the money flowing.
Proponents of this type of central planning-by-bribery will argue furiously that America isn’t a melting pot, but they act as if it’s homogenized. They ask, “Why do those people in flyover country vote against their own best interests?” without considering that maybe they don’t believe big government, massive debt and loss of their freedoms and cultures are in their own best interests. America has many cultures, all very different. Hawaii isn’t Maine, and Vermont isn’t Wyoming. People aren’t moving from California to Texas just for the barbecue. Many Americans don’t want Washington running up more debt in their names, to try to bribe 50 states into becoming a homogenized Utopia directed by benevolent DC dictators. That dream would be a nightmare in reality. Stop trying to entice local communities to build more government offices named after pork-barreling senators when what they really need is more high schools named after James Madison.