As I See It

by

Published: January 19,2004

I have been watching the Democratic presidential hopefuls slugging it out in Iowa. I have been amused.

Particularly, I enjoyed the two-hour debate aired several weeks ago on Iowa public television.

As his momentum has built, through the late fall and into the new year, Howard Dean`s eight primary opponents have worked themselves into a frenzy, and in recent days, have been piling on the feisty former governor from Vermont. Then, helping them along, Dean has made a number of missteps — from his ill-conceived attempt to woo Southern male voters (the Confederate flag flap) to frequent outbursts of his now infamous temper.

Amusement aside, I have also been surprised. These candidates haven`t learned much from ol’ Bill Clinton, whose shift to the center in policy and impression helped forge the idea of the so-called New Democrat.

Toss that out the window. Campaigning and debating across Iowa and New Hampshire, this year`s lineup of Democrats has a simple solution to all that ails the country: federal spending.

Now, the size of the federal government has increased dramatically during the administration of George W. Bush, but I’m still surprised — although, I suppose I really shouldn`t be — by how quickly these jostling Democratic candidates are willing to have Washington bail out the states. Apparently, more federal dollars is the prescription to cure every imaginable ill.

Two points come to my mind.

First, where do federal dollars come from? From listening to the candidates, one would assume that the Tooth Fairy is alive and well and living in Washington, D.C. All that is needed to solve the states’ fiscal crisis is for the federal government to print up some more money and send it on over.

Wait a minute! Where do those federal dollars really come from?

Well, they come from taxpayers. The same taxpayers who live in the 50 states and pay taxes to those states as well. So what we’re really talking about is getting the marbles out of someone else`s bag.

California is having trouble paying their schoolteachers so let`s tax some guy in Wisconsin and bale them out. Closer to home, our legislators have promised more Medicaid benefits than we can pay so let`s get some money from Connecticut taxpayers to cover out mistake.

Apparently this line of reasoning makes perfect sense to the parade of Democrats I’ve seen campaigning for their party`s presidential nomination.

The truth is that we have developed an addiction to federal dollars, and it is ruining the autonomy of the states. The federal government collects more tax than is necessary so that it can rebate the excess back to the states in exchange for more federal control. We’re selling our independence to the feds and we’re picking up the tab for our own demise. Truly sad, but like willing sheep we are being led to the slaughter.

Why do you suppose the founding fathers created states in the first place? Why not just have one central government and let that do? It`s simple. The representatives of the states who met together to form our country knew that local government is more responsive to the people than a strong federal government, and that by empowering the states we were much less likely to end up with a tyrannical dictator — a strong central government is no respecter of people or their rights.

The Constitution limits the powers of the federal government with all powers not specifically given to the feds reserved to the states, and that brings us to my second point: the states need to quit bellyaching. They created the mess; they need to clean it up.

In Mississippi, we committed too much and spent too freely during the good economy of the 1990s. OK, so what`s the question? The solution is very simple: fund the essentials, dispense with the rest.

Government is really not that much different from folks when it comes to money management. Lots of Mississippians have seen their paychecks downsized, and they’ve had to adjust their expectations. Tough, but necessary.

That`s what we’re now faced with doing when it comes to government services, programs and personnel.

Will it happen? I have my doubts, but at least the Democrats can give us a good chuckle or two.

Thought for the Moment — If there`s something you don`t like about yourself, change it. — late night utterance by a friend of mine

at a deer camp near Winona

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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