We can’t afford Big Government

The recent (and continuing) conflict about Washington’s spending addictions and failure to control federal debt overshadows how it passes on these problems to the states—and demonstrates that we cannot afford the leviathan central government.

The federal system has expanded far beyond the authorized power established by the confederation of states and encoded in the U. S. Constitution. That original and ultimate “law-of-the-land” clearly spelled out limits on executive, legislative and judicial powers. Further, after ratifying the Constitution in 1789, people in State conventions demanded that “further declaratory and restrictive clauses” (amendments) be added to the document “to prevent misconstruction or abuse of (federal) powers.”

Amendment X was unequivocal: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people (ratified December 15, 1791).

Unfortunately, over the past two hundred years federal legislation, court decisions, other amendments and executive decisions have usurped control beyond the boundaries set by our Founders and agreed by the States. In addition of the loss of freedom by State citizens, a lesser consequence of Big Government is that we can no longer afford it. Recent articles in the Wilmington, N.C. StarNews demonstrate the point.

For example, the so-called federal “shut down” this month resulted in a reduction of “$300,000 per week” in federal funding to the New Hanover County Department of Social Services. Projecting that number on an annual basis, that’s approximately $15.6 million—carrying that assumption to a conclusion: that’s one department, in one county in North Carolina depending on lots of federal money. Half of the DSS staff is “federally compensated employees” according to Wilmington StarNews reports by Ashley Withers. (link)

DSS operates expensive programs with few beneficiaries—if you don’t count government employees. Included in this conglomeration of federal, state and county welfare are child day care and foster care subsidies—“part of child protective services and developmental needs” (whatever that means)—all propped up with taxpayer’s money; more goes to “adult day care services” (who are the adults that need day care?), contracted social services, capital outlay projects and “vacant county employee positions” waiting to be filled when additional money comes in. Then there’s “Work First” cash benefits, employment services and “refugee cash and medical assistance.” These programs operate in all 100 North Carolina counties.

State and county budgets can’t support all these federal programs because, unlike the U. S. Federal Reserve banks, states can’t print money. And unlike the federal government, states must balance their budgets each year. Unfortunately, State and local politicians and the bureaucrats they support happily accept federal dollars.

The New Hanover County budget adopted for FY-13-14 ($282 million) indicates this in just one budget category: Human Resources. This includes departments of Health, Social Services, CoastalCare (not sure what that is, but it costs us $2 million) and the Senior Resource Center. The budget shows $50 million allocated to spend on these programs, yet the County money budgeted amounts to a little over $24 million. (link)

We doubt that all of these programs are worth the costs (Social Services is budgeted to spend nearly $42 million, with an increase of 4.7 percent; the Senior Center—set up for retiree recreation—gets more than $2.5 million with an increase in 41 percent). New Hanover County employs 1654 people, 497 of whom are listed in Human Services.

Politicians rarely evaluate costs that exceed benefits, demand accountability and reject the federal bribes. That won’t change as long as plentiful printed and borrowed money comes in from Big Government located in Washington, D. C. and the political class can claim that they “help” people and create “jobs.” Good intentions are good enough for them, but we the People can’t afford to fund their expanding bureaucracies.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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