The below guest opinion was published in The Montana Standard newspaper on May 7, 2009.
Why I voted ‘no’ on the stimulus
by Senator Joe Balyeat
“Big government can’t solve our problem; big government is our problem.” — Ronald Reagan The budget recently passed by Montana’s Legislature was hailed as a bipartisan feat, including total spending of almost $11 billion and so-called federal stimulus spending of $1 billion. I voted against both spending bills. Why?
One senator characterized the federal stimulus as free money “… that doesn’t cost Montana taxpayers one dime.” Commenting near April 15, the irony was self-evident; any naïve notion that Montanans don’t pay federal taxes must come from someone who’s never completed a federal Form 1040.
More importantly, the “free money” is non-existent; it’s deficit spending, which is putting an insurmountable debt load on the backs of our children’s children.
Presently, the national debt is $11,246,599,828,489 — roughly $11 and a quarter trillion dollars. According to the Congressional Budget Office, President Obama’s spending spree will leave us with a $20.3 trillion debt 10 years from now. This is real debt which someday needs to be repaid by our heirs — debt owed increasingly to foreign nations, especially China.
America’s been living beyond its means on our children’s money. Now that this lavish lifestyle is coming home to roost, Obama’s answer is more of the same thing which initially created this mess — bailing us out by spending more money we don’t have. Twenty trillion dollars translates into $266,667 of debt on the backs of every family of four in the entire United States.
Even if you’re completely debt free personally, you’ll still owe over a quarter-million dollars as your family’s share of the federal debt. Our parents handed us the greatest nation on the face of the earth; we’re handing our children the greatest debt ever imaginable.
Is Montana’s state government any less irresponsible? While Montana’s governor and politicians talked of an austere budget, Montana’s total spending increases 19 percent over last session’s budget, which itself repre-sented a nearly 40 percent increase in government spending during the previous four years.
Montana’s current budget spends $10,787,000,000 — $10.8 billion for two years. This translates into $44,254 in spending for every average Montana family of four. In a state where the average wages are only $32,000 annually, how can our struggling private sector possibly support this much government?
Considering Montana’s high number of government employees per capita, the total government spending per private sector family balloons to $48,000. And much of this expanded spending is debt-financed. While Montana’s average wages languish near the bottom, Montana’s state government debt per capita ranks in the top 10 nationally. Moreover, that per-capita debt has increased almost 50 percent in just the last three years alone.
Much of this increased government is nothing but micro-meddling regulation of our lives and businesses. The Legislature needlessly “licensed” several more occupations this year, with further regulations making it that much harder for young people to better themselves by entering certain careers.
During one licensing debate, I announced that next session I’d sponsor a bill to license politicians, and the education requirement would be at least one course in economics. The wisdom of this ed requirement was proven during debate on the stimulus bill, when one senator (who’s lived off a government paycheck his entire adult life) made the absurdly false statement that “every economist knows that the government should spend more money during recession.” I refrained from providing names of at least a dozen economists in Bozeman alone who disagree profoundly with that notion, especially when speaking about deficit spending — squandering our grandchildren’s well-being under a mountain of inflationary government debt.
I also refrained from pointing out that expanding government’s regulatory meddling actually stymies economic growth, rather than fostering it. Will Rogers once said, “Thank God we don’t get all the government we pay for.” Update that quote n Thank God we don’t get all the government our grandchildren will be paying for.
My “no” vote was a vote against America’s self-inflicted destruction of history’s greatest economy, a vote against burdening the backs of each family with a quarter-million-dollar bad debt, a vote for my children and children’s children, a vote for giving them the same life of economic opportunity which my parents handed to me. Unfortunately, too few politicians just said “no.”
Sen. Joe Balyeat, R-Bozeman and a CPA, is chairman of the Legislative Audit Committee and Business, Labor, & Economic Affairs Committee.