“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”
The legislative session is over, and for those who believe in limited government and slower bureaucratic growth, the picture isn't pretty. Starting with almost half a billion surplus, a coalition of Democrats and swing-vote, squishy Republicans blew through that surplus plus another $9.5 billion in Montana tax dollars and federal funny money. The $10 billion total budget means $115 million for every single day the Legislature met. That old adage needs revamping: “Another day, another 100 million dollars.”
With only 1 million people in Montana, the biennial $10.042 billion budget spends almost exactly $40,000 per every average family of four in the entire state! This doesn’t include direct federal spending nor city/county government spending – $40,000 spending every two years in a state where the average private-sector worker makes only $35,000 per year! The government burden on the back of Montana’s private sector is heavy indeed.
Like O’Rourke’s drunken teens, Montana’s big-spending politicians should pull to the curb long enough to burp and question themselves: Can a small private-sector economy like Montana’s support this much government in the long term? The $10 billion is a 13.35 percent increase from last budget, while inflation’s been only 2 percent per year. Can government continue growing at this unsustainable pace without seriously damaging Montana’s economic prospects for our children? No. Economic studies, such as “Government Spending and Economic Growth – a 50 State Analysis”, prove conclusively that state government overspending results in stagnant economies and slow wage growth.
A conservative-legislator minority attempted to act responsibly, like teen friends trying to take away the car keys after the kegger. They blocked the multibillion-dollar, irresponsible Medicaid expansion and made last-day efforts to stop the governor’s demand for millions more in spending. But Democratic leaders and Bullock indignantly decried anyone challenging their spending sobriety, so squishy swing votes handed them back the spending car keys before hastily adjourning.
The reward to those who tried to act responsibly was media excoriation and scorn from their big-spending colleagues. Squishy, swing vote big spenders were labeled “responsible”, with those maintaining spending sobriety labeled “irresponsible”. This makes as much sense as starting an organization called “Mothers Against Sober Drivers.”
The glaring example of topsy-turvy “responsibility” mislabeling is Medicaid expansion. Those blocking Medicaid expansion were armed with research proving the program a wasteful boondoggle – that Medicaid recipients have even worse medical outcomes than patients with no insurance. Yet daily we see news editorials excoriating conservatives for “irresponsible” rejection of Medicaid expansion… even while the latest Medicaid studies prove the conservative point conclusively.
On May 1, researchers published an enormous, multiyear Oregon scientific study of 10,000 random patients. Conclusion – Medicaid enrollment “generated no significant improvement in measured physical health outcomes.” No significant health outcome difference between the 5,000 patients in Medicaid versus the 5,000 noninsured patients. In fact, the only difference between the two groups is that Medicaid enrollees were happier because taxpayers footed the bill for their substantially increased medical expenditures. We’d be better off just handing folks money to spend as they wish; that’d make them even “happier” than enrollment in inferior health programs.
Yet conservative legislators blocking this boondoggle are “irresponsible” while those joining Democrats to take the car and the Jim Beam on a $10 billion binge are “responsible Republicans.” I think I need a drink.