A front page article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, “An Ohio Prescription for the GOP: Lower Taxes, More Aid for Poor”, describes how Ohio’s Republican Governor, John Kasich, a former congressional spending hawk, has expanded Medicaid coverage in Ohio and steered millions more dollars into local food banks. Mr. Kasich says, “When you die and go to heaven, St Peter is probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor.”
There are good reasons why we should shift programs and responsibilities from the federal government back to states and localities. At the federal level there is little fiscal restraint and therefore little incentive for making sure that governmental programs operate efficiently and effectively. Study after study by the Government Accounting Office, as well as by private think tanks, demonstrate enormous waste and duplication in virtually all areas of federal government. This long lasting fiscal irresponsibility at the federal level has now led to a massive national debt which will have a perverse effect on our nation’s prosperity for many years to come.
At the same time, all state and local governments are required to balance their budgets. This means that they have to pay attention to the costs of all programs and set spending priorities. They have to make sure that all functions of government are effective and be prepared to cut back or eliminate any program which is performing poorly. States such as Illinois and California, and cities such as Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia, which have huge operating deficits year after year, will eventually be forced to declare bankruptcy (such as Detroit has just done) in order to reorganize their finances and make a fresh start.
It has long been a practical axiom that government should be as close as possible to the people. But now it is a fiscal necessity as well to shift as much as possible from federal control back to state and local control.