Thursday, July 11, 2013

States rights, states wrongs in debate over the size of the federal government

 Have you ever noticed that the states that have governments dominated by conservative leaning GOP governors and / or legislatures  are among the first to cry foul if the hated federal government turns down their request for  disaster aid?  Or did you notice, too, that some states’ politicians who decry federal spending  the loudest get more money from the feds than they pay back to the federal treasury in taxes?  Both are irritating whiners.
The New York Times, June 23, 2013, reported  outrage on the part of Texans, victims of the West,  Texas fertilizer plant blast,  who were turned down for $17 million in  FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)  disaster aid because FEMA told Texas they  had enough funds in its coffers to provide the aid themselves.  FEMA regulations, the Stafford act, requires federal funds to aid only those states that lack resources to address recovery.   Texas has just given its citizens $1 billion in tax relief, and their rainy day fund has another $8 billion in it.
The president had already authorized the federal government to cover 75 percent of the state’s cost for debris removal and emergency responders and $25 million to the state and affected families and another $8 million in grants and low interest disaster loans for individuals.  The state had then asked for an additional  $17 million to cover public infrastructure that was uninsured because they claimed  could not cover it.….and Texas wanted us, the rest of the US taxpayers,  to cover the additional $17 million? That request is for an unnecessary  federal handout from a state that overwhelmingly supported Mitt Romney, who proposed to abolish FEMA.
On the other hand, Texas is the same state that just refused to co-operate with Obamacare, turning down an increase in Medicaid funds that would have covered 30% more than are being covered now.  Give Texas credit for being ideologically purely conservative on that particular issue, but there will be pressure to be more pragmatic. The cost to Texas for such coverage? 0, zip, nada for the first several years and then to cover 10% of the increased federal  funds thereafter. It is a good deal, requiring  far less than the matching required for the existing Medicaid program.    Obamacare will not pick up that added 30% , leaving a sizeable gap of the near poor of  those without health insurance.
 The question will be how long  their constituents  will  tolerate that and wonder why they do not have coverage like other states or why continued masses of uninsured flooding their expensive emergency rooms , and passing the uncompensated  costs to the insured.  The eyes of Texans will then be upon  states like Colorado that  accepted Medicaid expansion, and whose health and  financial well being of its citizens  benefited.
The  most irritating whiners  are the GOP  dominated    states that   take in more money in federal funds than they return to the federal coffers and  are among the loudest  to rant about Federal deficits, big government,  and  federal overreach.
The Economist Magazine on line, August 1st 2011, made a study of fiscal transfers between states and the federal government from 1990-2009 and ranked them by states  receiving more  from the feds than they paid in taxes.  These  debtor states  ranking highest in receiving federal funds and lowest in tax contributions to the federal treasury  were New Mexico, Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia,  Kentucky, Vermont, Maine, Montana, and  both Dakotas.
Some of those states have  high numbers of Native American reservations that receive federal funding,  but  ironically,  that list also contains many states that are  the home of  the  most vocal  Teaparty tax protestors.  I wonder in what shape their budgets would be or to what extent their poor would be helped    if those transfers were less.

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