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Jerry Shenk


PA: Time for Difficult, Practical Decisions

by Jerry Shenk
 

The United States Constitution's 10th Amendment is under assault from symbiotic devil's bargains in which Washington acquires coercive powers by allowing state politicians to expand, while obscuring actual spending.

The Amendment reads: "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."

The first dollar a state accepts from the federal government to provide the services with which states are legitimately charged erodes the 10th Amendment. Accepting huge amounts of federal dollars to fund nonfederal activities such as education not only erodes the amendment, it undermines the will of state policy-makers to defend the sovereignty the amendment guarantees. In this way, the national government expands, unchecked, beyond its constitutional limits at the expense of the states and the people.

In 2015, Pennsylvania spent 25-30 billion federal dollars more than a (belated) state budget of about $30 billion, a portion of which budget was mandated but unfunded by Washington. Communities, too, are affected by unfunded federal mandates.

In a republic, the appetites of the ruling elite cannot be satisfied without at least an appearance of policy successes. Politicians understand the importance of appearances, so, if they wish to preserve majorities and maintain their power and control over our lives -- and they do -- they must first manage voters' perceptions. Accordingly, the vocabulary of the debate is crucial.

For example, in their explanations for and rationalizations of budgetary shortfalls, we hear a great deal from Pennsylvania's progressive politicians --Democrats and Republicans -- about inadequate Treasury receipts and very little about excessive government spending or fraud. By ignoring spending and fraud as contributors to budgetary shortfalls, the political class would have us believe revenues to be our only problem. In this way, we are set up for tax increases.

The truth is that politicians and bureaucrats have under-enforced, overcommitted and overspent. Now they're deceiving us, not just about the reasons for Pennsylvania's financial problems, but about effective solutions.

When families have budgetary problems, want or need more money, breadwinners seek better-paying or take on additional jobs. If jobs aren't available or second jobs impractical options, families moderate or reduce spending. In proud working families, income is gained by personal effort, only seldom by taking - and then as a last resort.

Governments only take.

In Harrisburg, raising taxes has become a weak, reflexive response to excessive spending, a decision made by weak people, and an act that only worsens economic uncertainty and deepens the problems Pennsylvania faces.

For its fiscal health, the Commonwealth must push back on unfunded federal mandates, eliminate prevailing wage requirements for public projects, resolve the public pension crisis, and tackle welfare, food stamp and unemployment benefit fraud. Effectively addressing enforcement and spending could save taxpayers $5-8 billion annually.

Rather than forcing difficult, practical decisions, Pennsylvania voters have allowed elected officials to get away with easy evasions.

The evasions must stop. Pennsylvania's existential problems must be addressed.


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