OPINION – The party line in Red State America is that the feds give too many handouts; that there is too much “big government;” that we are taxed too much; that too much money goes to “government programs” whether for so-called entitlement programs or for aid; that too many go to the federal government with their hands out.
But, when there is federal money on the table guess who is first in line?
Seven of the 10 states that receive the most in government money are conservative. Utah is not, by the way, among them, coming in farther down the line.
But, in the heart of Utah conservatism that sneers at federal funding lies the hypocrisy that is politics.
Santa Clara city officials recently applied for federal dollars for relief money that would have allowed it to purchase three homes in a potential landslide site and to do other work to keep the earth from shifting in that area.
The city asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $1.2 million to buy the three properties engineers believe to be the most seriously affected in the Truman Drive area, plus money to relocate homes and their residents, remove soil at the top of the slide zone to reduce weight on the slope, construct a support berm at the base of the hill, and cover engineering and drainage costs. In denying the funding, FEMA officials agreed that the city’s plan is probably a good one, but that at the moment, there are higher priorities.
Santa Clara will reapply for the funds next year.
That doesn’t mean the feds will overlook Utah and its needs.
On the whole, Utah relies on federal funds for more than 40 percent of its revenue. During the state’s budget year that ended June 30, 2013, Utah received $4.5 billion in federal funds, plus another $2.7 billion in loans, endowments and loan guarantees, according to figures released by Utah State Auditor John Dougall. The state, meanwhile, raised nearly $3 billion collected in individual income taxes and a little more than $2 billion in state sales taxes, the largest sources of state government revenue.
After examining the figures, University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank told The Salt Lake Tribune that although he understands the concerns raised about federal funding, the state has little alternative but to depend on Washington, D.C.
“I honestly don’t see what the alternative would be,” Burbank said. “We would lose jobs. We would lose all kinds of services if we didn’t have access to federal money. There’s no question we would be worse off.”
That doesn’t stop Gov. Gary Herbert, who probably leads the GOP pack when it comes to politicizing federal funding on one hand while reaching for more with the other.
He has, for example, wrongly stated that the state is forced to accept certain funding because of federal mandates, particularly in the area of health programs. The truth, however is that the state has voluntarily signed on to the programs that provide those dollars. They are not mandated, despite the governor’s protestations.
When it comes to relief dollars, Herbert sings a different tune.
“That’s our money,” he told The Trib after accepting $60 million in federal agricultural relief. “We put money in the federal government like all states that pay taxes. … As we put money in, we’re going to get money back.”
He’s not the only one to talk smack about the feds, then brag about how much money he lifted from its coffers.
I cannot count the number of times I have heard Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican, and Rep. Jim Matheson, a member of the Democratic Party – well, at least in name – brag about the federal dollars they have garnered for one project or another.
In other words, senseless spending ends when money is diverted from your wallet to mine. At that point, it is money well spent.
According to a report by the Sutherland Institute, federal dollars provide Utah with quantitative funding for vital programs such as education and nutrition for children (NCLB), basic health care for low-income families (Medicaid/CHIP), income to live on for seniors (Medicare/Social Security), and economic activity that creates jobs for Utah families of all income levels in addition to road and highway money, disaster relief, and other programs.
So whether it is for education, health care, disaster relief, business development, or any other cause, Red Staters are more than willing to check their ideological principles at the door and stand in line with their hands out.
Yet, when the poor are in need, we hear about how they should get “a hand up” rather than “a handout.”
But, here is where Herbert’s words haunt him. Those dollars also belong to the people who have contributed to unemployment insurance, Social Security, and other programs intended to help the poor, needy, and unemployed, most of whom are white or live in a rural community, by the way, according to a recent Pew Research study. That is, however, a topic of its own, separate from this discussion. So is the issue of funding for senseless wars and the implements of war, which the military industrial complex and aerospace industry produce to further gouge taxpayers.
What is at issue here is the hypocrisy involved in castigating the federal government – well, to be precise, members of the Democratic Party in the federal government – for unchecked spending while asking for those dollars out of the other side of your mouth.
You can’t have it both ways.
If you are opposed to taking federal money, don’t ask for it, and if you ask for it, don’t bad-mouth those who made it available.
Even an angry dog learns not to bite the hand that feeds it.
- Healthy Utah Plan in the works for those in the uninsured gap
- Sen. Hatch’s office presents free federal funding workshop
- Santa Clara hits roadblock in landslide funding, investigates 2nd slide
- Santa Clara awaits FEMA funding for Truman Drive landslide
- FEMA money floods Santa Clara to repair Laub Pond Dam
- Washington County School District gets $1.2 million in federal land use funds
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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