Feb. 20, 2009
"Some governors might reject funds," blared the headline in USAToday. The story detailed the fact that about $144 billion of the huge $787 billion "stimulus" package President Obama signed this week will go to the states.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) was not one of those governors, most of them Republicans, who were leery of the gift horse Washington was promising their states.
Still, Gov. Patrick said the $9 billion slated for the Bay State would "not be a panacea."
Not a panacea, but maybe a Pandora's Box. South Carolina's Gov. Mark Sanford is head of the Republican Governors Association. He warns about the impact of programs funded by this sudden windfall from Washington. "You get this huge slug of money. It funds programs for a couple of years, and then what? You get it started, you get a constituency established, and then we're supposed to yank the rug out from under people when the federal money runs out?" Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) echoed Sanford's concerns: "It's not fair to Alaskans," she said, "to create programs that won't be sustainable."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) pointed to the "mile long strings" attached to the federal funds. Those strings may prove to be chains in the long run. Some of the funds will go for bridges, roads, tunnels, and other important and lasting parts of the infra-structure. Too much of it will for wasteful projects. The "stimulus" has been likened by columnist George Will to "drowning by fire hose."
One part of the federal funding jumps out at pro-lifers: Medicaid funding. In seventeen of our states, tragically, taxpayers are forced to pay for abortions. Will this new wave of federal funding result in more money for abortion in the states? How terrible it would be if this attempt to "jump start" economic recovery were to help kill America's future generations.
Even as we fight to preserve the Hyde Amendment that bans federal funding for abortion, the fact remains that monies are fungible. Americans recognize that if some Wall Street fat cats are being bailed out by taxpayers, it won't do to say that their executive retreats to some posh watering holes were paid for by corporate funds, not taxpayer dollars. Americans understand how the executives simply take the money from one overstuffed pocket and jam it into the other. The same is true for state-mandated abortion funding. If the feds don't fund abortions directly, they free up money in state budgets for this misuse of funds.
The other danger of these strings attached is that the states will lose their proper relationship to the federal government. James Madison and the other Framers gave us a system of checks and balances. Powers were separated at the federal level-legislative, executive, and judicial-but they were also divided between federal and state governments. This recovery package threatens seriously to uncheck those checks and unbalance those balances.
I vividly recall when I reported for duty at the U.S. Department of Education under the Reagan administration. I was assigned to a career civil servant for orientation. Dr. Ed was a highly intelligent, highly motivated, and thoroughly liberal bureaucrat. Dr. Ed took me to each of ten offices at USED. At each, he underscored his points by telling me that he and his fellow "educrats" could not possibly be responsible for all the nonsense in the nation's classrooms that conservatives complained about. "We only provide seven percent of all education funding," Dr. Ed told me over and over, "just seven percent!"
I followed Dr. Ed like a lamb for that first week. But when orientation was over, I told him a lesson my dad had taught me. "Pop" was in the Merchant Marine and had sailed off to India. There, he saw how the mahouts train their elephants. The mahout is a little fellow who weighs just seven percent of what the elephant weights, but he has a stick with which he prods the elephant behind the ears. With that stick, the elephant soon learns to go where the little mahout sends him.
That's the way it is with federal funding. Except that now, our federal mahout has a much bigger stick with which to prod our fifty state elephants.