One of the most disheartening aspects of current governments is their propensity to steal. The overwhelming urge to pilfer is born from another addiction, the insatiable appetite for growth. The classic resource for governmental action, the tax. has , secondary to this gluttonous appetite, required supplementation by the fee, the assessment, the service charge, the toll, the penalty, the tuition, the class-action lawsuit, and others that functionally fundamentally as – a tax. The very unfortunate truth is no form of income streams have proved sufficient to satiate most governments. In order to fund the ever-growing entitlement processes and programs without end or size limitation, pilfering has become the weapon of choice for budget busting spending.
At the national level, this process of pilfering has incurred subtly through the facetious guarantee of the “lock box” for Social Security. Political leaders pretend in their accounting that on-going funding is occurring, when in reality, future resources to support later Social Security participants is being spent now on other “more pressing” priorities. The “promise” is to guarantee underwriting of the mandate for later generations. As I noted in a previous posting on the Debt Clock, the unfunded mandate for Social Security alone is 14.45 trillion dollars – may I be the first to express my skepticism regarding this promised underwriting.
At the state level where balanced budgets are often a requirement of their constitutions, the pilfering has been much more audacious. In the state of Wisconsin, budget shortfalls have not incentivized any elected officials to cut expenditures to reflect available resources – perish the thought. The reaction instead has been the brazen stealing of funds meant to be locked in place to meet specific concerns of the populus, such as transportation, environment, tobacco lawsuit health fund, and other funds meant to be used specifically for certain venues.
Why do they steal? – as a famous thief was once asked why he chose to rob banks – That’s Where The Money Is! The state of Wisconsin managed to finally go too far, however, with an audacious grab of 200 million dollars of the state’s malpractice fund, specifically invested in by the state’s physicians and hospitals to be used exclusively for damages. I am convinced Governor Doyle took the money, not because he wasn’t sure it was inappropriate, but because he was convinced he could get away with it. No such luck for our own Badger thief – the State Supreme Court acknowledged that when a law stipulates a certain requirement, amazingly, the government that has voted for a law must be in the business of actually upholding it. A thief gets his just desserts.
Its critical that accountability return to our legislatures, so that the future we hold for all of us in escrow, someday, might just see the light of day.