Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cornhusker Kickback Conundrum

We all know what happened in December with Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson regarding the health care bill, but let's summarize anyway. Nelson was the only Democrat standing not only in the way of alleged Obama progress, but standing on principle in doing so. Then, with the allure of something Senators have been powerless to resist - money for their states - principle became an affordable commodity, and Nelson sold out to the Democratic leadership, abandoned integrity and gave his blessing to that which moments before he was opposed.

Afterwards, at the behest of South Carolina Senators Lindsay Graham and Jim DeMint, South Carolina GOP Attorney General Henry McMaster formed a coalition of ten Republican State Attorneys General - which has since grown to thirteen - that is threatening to file suit against the Senate health care bill on the basis of special treatment for one state, Nebraska, over the other 49 states. You see, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wrote a check to Nelson and Nebraska - using our money - for that states Medicaid program. Nelson immediately caved on his position of "principle".

McMaster's suit is based on the constitutionality of preferential treatment for one state above others. It has, shall we say, gravitas. With that in mind, Nelson has asked the South Carolina Attorney General to "call off the dogs". Pleading his case, Nelson reportedly told McMasters that he never asked for the deal, and went further by explaining that the same deal would be extended to the other states. Great.

So now we can expect the "Hoosier Handout" or the "Buckeye Bailout". Government philanthropy at its best. "Charity is easy when it costs nothing" should be the mantra of the U.S. Congress.

With the Nelson deal set to cost the federal government an average of $10 million per year, for a sparsely populated state, it must be considered what the cost will be for states such as New York and California should the same be offered to them. Perhaps it should be more important to realize that there will be no actual "cost" to the federal government at all, but to the American taxpayer instead.

Of course it could be argued that tax money is tax money and that the source is the people nonetheless, but the entity collecting and subsequently distributing these funds is of paramount importance, and this Nelson/Nebraska affair is a textbook illustration of the perils of a centralized federal monolith. The federal government was never intended to be the basket into which all taxes collected land. That body was set up to be little more than the referee for the states in the union and, more importantly, as the overseer of the nations defenses. Simple job requirements.

But now, just as our founders feared, the denizens of our capitol have envisioned themselves as kings and queens. And our governors have all but acquiesced and eagerly relinquish their thrones, as it were, in deference to the upper-case State. Despite the personal wealth of our representatives in Congress, they all seem to exhibit the mentality - albeit on an entirely different scale - of your garden variety welfare recipient, jonesing for more handouts from the seemingly bottomless well of Uncle Sam.

As we have been ever vigilant for enemies on the horizon, we have missed the kind aunt at the door. Benevolence has never been suspect regardless of the funding source. Perhaps it's time for a bit more scrutiny.

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