Trent England | February 18, 2020
The immorality of ‘free’ federal money
Oklahoma must expand welfare in order to get more federal dollars—this a common argument for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. It makes sense, unless you have all the facts. The truth is that this money is not sitting around somewhere in Washington, nor is it currently going to other states. Any additional federal dollars will be borrowed in a way that is both undemocratic and immoral.
Imagine: Someone takes out a home loan, then sells the house without the new buyer knowing it’s collateral. The seller spends the money and the new owner discovers that unless she makes the loan payments, the house will be repossessed. This, of course, is fraud and, effectively, theft.
To the seller, however, it’s a great deal. He gets the borrowed money and can spend it now. Someone else pays later. This is how federal deficit spending works. Today’s politicians spend the money, tomorrow’s taxpayers foot the bill. In modern times, federal politicians have cut state politicians in on this deal.
Government deficits are taxation without representation. This violates basic principles of democratic government and legitimate taxation. Just like Oklahoma voters don’t set tax policy for Arkansas, voters today should not set tax policy for voters 20 or 30 years from now.
Last year’s federal deficit was more than $960,000,000,000. This year’s deficit will be more. And it will be even more than that if Oklahoma expands Medicaid.
Government borrowing might make sense in an emergency, or to pay for a fixed asset that will last for future generations. But government borrowing from the future to pay for operational expenses today is irresponsible and immoral.
In Oklahoma, government borrowing is restricted by the state Constitution and generally requires a vote of the people. The courts have yet to apply this provision to federal funds, but politicians could still abide by the spirit of our state law rather than grasping for easy money.
David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow
Trent England is the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he previously served as executive vice president. He is also the founder and executive director of Save Our States, which educates Americans about the importance of the Electoral College. England is a producer of the feature-length documentary “Safeguard: An Electoral College Story.” He has appeared three times on Fox & Friends and is a frequent guest on media programs from coast to coast. He is the author of Why We Must Defend the Electoral College and a contributor to The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Times, Hillsdale College's Imprimis speech digest, and other publications. Trent formerly hosted morning drive-time radio in Oklahoma City and has filled for various radio hosts including Ben Shapiro. A former legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he holds a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College.