What Do They Take Us For? Actually, Quite a Lot.

Forget about financially troubled California for a while. Forget about Detroit and the auto industry. And take a step back from any talk of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Let’s just focus on our own state for a minute. I’ve been talking until I’m blue in the face about a simple premise: You cannot spend your way out of debt. Yet, here we go again. Faced with a looming budget deficit, and despite campaign promises to the contrary, our representatives are once again flocking to federal funds and pork barrel spending to fill the gaps in their spending spree.

Without anyone asking the taxpayers, the federal government has allocated, and the state government has accepted, the burden of millions of dollars in taxes for, among other things…

$2,000,000 for environmental infrastructure at Springfield Hospital

$1,427,250 for Wilberforce University

$1,000,000 for environmental infrastructure along Route 41

$951,500 for a biorefining energy security project at Ohio University-Lancaster

$951,500 for science education facility renovations at Ohio Christian University

$951,500 for Adaptive Liquid Crystal Windows in Ohio

$237,500 for the State to acquire 62 acres of Keil Farm (a park in Toledo)

$95,000 for the Canton Symphony Orchestra for teacher training and curriculum development

This short list is just a fraction of the close to $20 billion in earmark spending for the 2009 federal budget that’s detailed by Citizens Against Government Waste (www.cagw.org). But among other things, it represents more than $7 million spent for projects that, while they might seem important to those they directly affect, definitely don’t represent anything that Ohio can’t live without, if we are indeed facing a crisis.

While millions of Americans are tightening their belts and reviewing their own definitions of “wants” and “needs”, our state representatives seem undeterred in trying to continue with business as usual. And whenever the pot gets a little light, it’s always the police, fire and EMS that we’re told will be the first to get cut. All the while, they’re spending whatever money they can get, on the projects they’re told to do by Senators and Congressmen that can apparently pull funding from already overtaxed citizens like a rabbit from a hat. 

So, the question is, what do we do about it? This is not a new problem. In fact, Alexander Hamilton actually predicted it in January of 1788, when he published Federalist Paper #31. He wrote: “It is necessary that the State Governments should be able to command the means of supplying their wants as the National Government should posses a like facility. But an indefinite power of taxation in the latter (Federal Government) might, and probably would in time deprive the former (States) of the means of providing for their own necessities; and would subject them entirely to the mercy of the national legislature.” Hamilton concluded that while the duality is necessary, everything past what’s deliberately spelled out “must be left to the prudence and firmness of the people, who, as they will hold the scales in their own hands, it is to be hoped, will always take care to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the General and State Governments.”

That’s right, it’s up to you and I. That’s the brilliance of the founding fathers. They not only had the foresight to design one of the most successful nations in history, they knew that words on paper were nothing without the dedication of a nation of individuals, living in freedom, willing to work hard and sometimes fight to keep things in harmonic balance. Lately, my fear is that with every passing day, our Senators and Congressmen are becoming less and less our representatives while trying to supplant themselves as our nannies. Well, like it or not, that’s not their job, and if it’s allowed to happen, it will mark the beginning of the end of our democracy.

At least from what I’ve read, if the system is to work as it was designed, the local governments must fund their local projects, the states must be self sufficient, and the federal government must not interfere. The Union was created to protect the sovereignty of the nation and the freedom of the people, not to dictate its interests, manipulate its authorities, or mandate its responsibilities.

So as Hamilton suggested, it’s time to recalibrate the scales. It’s time to call your Congressmen, e-mail your Senators, and contact the state legislature. The “wants” of the government cannot be allowed to take precedence over the “needs” of the people.

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Volume 5, Issue 12, Posted 8:16 AM, 06.19.2009