“We Have Met The Taxpayer and He Is Us”

Those of us who remember the great comic strip character Pogo may remember one of his more memorable quotes: We have met the enemy and he is us.  If Pogo were still around today he may have rephrased it this way: We have met the taxpayer and he is us.
I bring this up because in the media you often see comments about the federal government not spending enough money on various liberal domestic programs even though spending is higher than it has ever been. What seems to be forgotten is this: the very same people who pay federal taxes pay state and local taxes. As Pogo would say He is us.
Thus if government at whatever level needs to pay for something, it taxes us,  not a foreigner or an extraterrestrial. Therefore every time someone, whether politician or special interest group, asks for more domestic spending at the federal level ask yourself this question: why aren’t we paying for this at the state or local level? It’s the same taxpayer. He is us.
The reason is it is a lot easier to lobby 535 politicians in one place (Washington DC) than it is 50 times that number in 50 different states or thousands of times that number at the county, township and city level. It is much easier to get your money from Washington than anywhere else.
And lobbyists now days are not just corporations and unions &  states, counties and cities all have lobbyists at the federal spending trough. Their citizens pay taxes to Washington and then the states, counties and cities pay to send lobbyists to Washington to beg for it back. How dumb is that?
And secondly it is a lot more difficult to track spending in Washington than it is in Podunk. And that is why it appeals to media elites and most Congressmen. Lesser transparency is better if you are a politician and nothing is less transparent than the Federal Government and its 21 Departments and its 2 million bureaucratic employees. I mean do you really believe anyone knows where all those trillions of dollars go?
A prime example is Medicaid. Liberals are screaming because Medicaid spending at the Federal level is only going up by 6.9% per year over the next 5 years, 3 times the rate of inflation. They felt it should be going up 7.5%.
Now the Medicaid program is a state-federal program whereby the states pay as little as 25% of the cost of Medicaid while the feds pay up to 75%. For example in West Virginia taxpayers from Nebraska, Idaho and Florida (and 46 other states) are paying for 75% of WV’s medically indigent. West Virginians only pay for 25% of their own Medicaid. However, WV taxpayers in turn pay for some of Nebraskas, Idahos and Floridas Medicaid.
The question arises: why dont WV taxpayers pay for their medical needs and Nebraska taxpayers pay for theirs? I mean the amount needed for Medicaid in WV and Nebraska is the same no matter who pays it, Nebraska taxpayers or WV taxpayers. He is us.
The reason is power, the power of money and the ability to assign it to certain groups. That is what political power is. Take money from Nebraska, Idaho and Florida and give it to WV. Take money from WV and give it to Nebraska, etc.
It doesn’t matter what the money is for, it only matters that you control its distribution. Make sure it goes through Washington before any citizens get it back. And skim a little off the top for the bureaucrats in Washington while you are laundering the cash.
So when you hear Blagojevich or Durbin complaining about the need for more money for Medicaid, or any federal program, remember they are really asking the citizens of Nebraska, Idaho and Florida to pay for something for the citizens of Illinois. But if the program is worthwhile why don’t Illinois politicians convince local taxpayers to pay for it rather than asking Nebraska taxpayers to pay for it?
Because the citizens of Nebraska do not have a vote in Illinois therefore Illinois politicians can encourage taxing and spending at the federal level without any accountability at the state level. Petitioning the federal government on Illinois behalf is really petitioning Nebraska taxpayers without them knowing it.
Why would Illinois politicians care about how much Nebraskans pay for Illinois Medicaid patients? Of course they also don’t care how much Illinois taxpayers pay for Nebraska Medicaid either. If the money comes from Washington nobody cares because nobody is responsible or accountable.
When it comes to who is the taxpayer politicians always want you to think, He is them.
But we know Pogo was right. In the end He is us.
Bill Zettler is a free-lance writer and consultant specializing in public sector compensation. He can be contacted at this email address. Click here to read more by Mr. Zettler.