Stan Collender on Our Collective Spending Addiction

This is a sobering post. It turns out that while voters want the federal government to spend less on “foreign aid, the Pentagon, ‘welfare,’ and ’space exploration,’” they want more money spent on everything from the environment to health to Social Security to, incredibly, parks and recreation. 

The meta-conservative position should be grounded in the principle of federalism. It should be perfectly fine for New York and California to try to build social democratic utopias while the economies of Texas and Utah remain open and entrepreneurial. Just don’t expect taxpayers living elsewhere to bail you out. That is the central problem with federal-state partnerships like Medicaid, in which the division of responsibility becomes a division of irresponsibility.

I’m increasingly convinced that two big reforms would make a dramatic and positive difference in American life. First, make Medicaid an entirely federal program, thus removing a huge burden from the states and streamlining eligibility requirements. Second, eliminate the state and local tax deduction. The politics of high-tax states would be transformed. Some states would use the end of their Medicaid obligations as an opportunity to pare back spending. Other would shift spending to education and infrastructure. State governments would become more than just regional headquarters for a national welfare state. They’d become the laboratories of democracy they were always meant to be.  

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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