The Specter of Socialism

Despite President Reagan’s proclamation that “government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem,” it’s become very normal to look to government to solve the myriad issues in our society.

People are hungry? Pass a law.

People are sick? Pass a law.

Inequality? Pass a law.

Even Republicans who campaign on small government still look to government to solve these social issues. Most have fully accepted that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, TANF, SNAP, WIC, and other entitlement programs are normal for a modern civilized society. The problem is that these programs only ever grow — it is nearly impossible to scale them back.

In 2018, Idaho voters approved an initiative that enrolled the state in the federal Medicaid Expansion program. Voters were sold the idea that it was necessary for the truly needy and that it would be cost efficient, but both premises have proven false. Not only are able-bodied adults taking advantage of this program, Medicaid is now the largest line item in the state budget at nearly $5 billion and its growth shows no signs of slowing down. Much of that is federal dollars, but that’s still our money, whether through direct taxation or indirectly through inflating the money supply.

Yet now that Medicaid Expansion is here, there is no getting rid of it. Last month, Rep. Jordan Redman presented a bill to hold the system accountable, to create measurable thresholds for its continued operation. Hundreds of people signed up to testify, saying they would not tolerate any threat to the system upon which they now depend.

Five Republicans joined the three Democrats on that committee to kill Redman’s Medicaid reform bill.

It’s bad enough that our lawmakers cannot rein in entitlement programs, but they also seem determined to create new ones as well. For decades, the federal government has subsidized school lunches for families under a certain income threshold. Like most entitlement programs, that sounds reasonable and compassionate — after all, nobody wants children to go hungry.

Over the years this program has been expanded to include breakfast during the school year and lunch during summer break. When many schools closed during the pandemic lockdowns in 2020, Congress authorized direct payments to eligible families in the form of EBT cards. This was meant to be a temporary program, but this week your Idaho lawmakers are preparing to make it permanent.

A new federal regulation says that if one in four students at any particular school qualify for free or reduce lunch, then all students in that school will be entitled to these EBT cards.

Do you see what is going on? The Biden Administration is further expanding the welfare state, and the Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare is enthusiastically going along with it. Where are our fiscally conservative lawmakers to say “stop”? IDHW asked for an additional million dollars to support the new Summer EBT program, and JFAC voted to approve that appropriation.

JFAC had the option of approving a budget that did not include this program, and co-chair Sen. C. Scott Grow supported that option. However, co-chair Rep. Wendy Horman did not, instead she voted to kill the alternative and move ahead with the budget that included the Summer EBT program.

The biggest problem with government programs like this is that they breed more government by fostering dependence upon the system. By opening the door to including nearly all public school families in this program, more people will learn to depend on government handouts, and the program will only continue to grow, just as Medicaid Expansion has. If this passes now, any attempt to repeal it in the future will be met by emotional appeals from families who rely on this program to feed their children.

Nearly a century ago, President Franklin Roosevelt discovered that he could use taxpayer dollars to create loyal patrons who would support him and his party. Once a citizen becomes dependent upon government aid, he will always vote for whichever candidate or party that vows to protect or expand that aid.

This program also increases dependence by the state on the federal government. The Biden Administration recently used this very program — free and reduced school lunches — to enforce a radical view of gender identity on public schools. Despite having no constitutional authority over your local school district, the federal government uses programs like this to get its way, threatening to withhold federal dollars from any school that does not comply.

Government will always grow government — that’s what it does best. If lawmakers don’t take active steps to reduce the size and scope of government, then it will continue to grow unabated. We need more courageous conservatives who are willing to endure the sob stories and hit pieces and say “Government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.”

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