The Welfare State

Commentary by Ron Miller

Ron MillerEvery state has a nickname with historical or cultural significance, and Maryland has two - the Old Line State and the Free State. Given its recent history, I'd like to propose a third; the Welfare State.

Many Marylanders find themselves frustrated with the state's love affair with Washington DC. In an era where states are beginning to flex their muscles and reacquaint themselves with the 10th Amendment and federalism, Maryland can't seem to extract itself from the teat of big government. That dependency on the federal dollar comes at the expense of our individual liberty.

When it comes to federal money, Maryland is a beneficiary state; for every $1.00 we pay in federal taxes, we get $1.30 back. Some would say that's a good thing but, setting aside for the moment that Maryland is profiting at the expense of other states, is our dependency on Washington for our financial well-being a prudent strategy?

Federal funds comprised $9.3 billion of the fiscal year 2011 state budget, the largest single source of income in the budget. Is it a good thing that 29 percent of the revenue we need to maintain a balanced budget, in accordance with Maryland law, is dependent on the federal government?

Maryland received $3.8 billion in federal stimulus funds, and $1.3 billion of that money was used this year to put our budget in balance. That money goes away next year; then what?

Health care costs make up 28 percent of the overall budget and, thanks to the recently passed federal health care legislation, we can expect those costs to increase.

Political columnist Barry Rascovar declared in an op-ed piece that "More than in any other state, Maryland will be impacted by the federal health care reforms. The results may not be positive, either."

The insurance mandates have the potential to dump 600,000 new patients on a Maryland health care system suffering from severe doctor shortages and financially strapped hospitals.

The proposed Medicare cuts to doctors and hospitals will drive more doctors out of their practices through retirement or career change, or fewer will accept Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The state's health care regulators will also have to reduce what Maryland hospitals can charge for procedures or stays, since hospital charges must be lower than Medicare charges in order for the state to merit the federal government's continued endorsement of their regulatory system.

Hospitals will have to cut their costs dramatically to absorb the resulting reductions in income, and all but essential services could be eliminated. Two hospitals are already on thin ice and being propped up by the state; one of those is Prince George's Hospital, the shock trauma center for southern Maryland. These reductions in charges might cause them to fall through.

But did our Governor and General Assembly push back against this legislation, recognizing the adverse effect it would have on our state? Quite the contrary.

Maryland politicians are toadying up to the President and endorsing his health care legislation, setting us up for a serious fall down the road. And it's not just the state's budget that will feel the effects; so will your pocketbook.

During the last General Assembly session, our elected officials chose to subject its citizens to the unconstitutional federal health insurance mandate. The one-party monopoly in Annapolis voted against bills that would have guaranteed Marylanders the right to choose whether or not to carry health insurance, and would have protected them from fines, fees or any other punitive levies attempted by the federal government for not carrying insurance.

So much for the Free State. Our elected officials would rather play Washington's game and tell their constituents what they must buy, than stand for our freedom to make our own choices about how to spend our hard-earned family funds.

Politicians and bureaucrats in Annapolis and Washington aren't sitting at our kitchen tables or home office desktops, deciding which bills are more important to pay than others. They cannot know better than me what financial decisions make the most sense for my family, yet they're telling me to buy a service I may not want or can't afford because there's a more pressing need.

Meanwhile, Virginia is leading the nation in protecting the rights of its citizens. It was the first state to enact a law shielding its residents from the federal mandate, and it joined 19 other states in a lawsuit against the federal government over the health care law.

But in Maryland, government can do no wrong. On more than one occasion, Democratic politicians extol the virtues of government rather than the independence and resiliency of the people the government is designed to serve.

The problem is that we're now so dependent on government that not only do we risk our state's financial stability and the well-being of its residents should the federal dollars dry up, we've lost our self-sufficiency as a people.

Everyone has their hand out for government money, and they don't care that it comes with strings attached, or that it diminishes their ability to develop resources on their own. We elect our Congressmen and Senators based on how much money they can siphon from the federal coffers to our state.

One of our very own from Mechanicsville, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Senator Barbara Mikulski, are prime purveyors of pork, and they slop taxpayer money around while we squeal and scramble for it as if they're doing us a favor. According to the Citizens Against Government Waste's 2008 Congressional Pig Book, Hoyer is the fifth biggest "porker" in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Did you ever stop to think, however, that these pork projects, while beneficial to the re-election prospects of the incumbents, don't really do the most good for the most people?

What's more essential to putting food on the table and a roof over our heads, nearly $1 million over two years to a music-education nonprofit group that can't account for how it's using the money, or tax cuts and regulatory reform to relieve the crushing burden on small businesses so they won't just barely survive, but thrive and create thousands of new jobs in our district?

Does a jetty project in Deale, or a study in Beltsville on the health benefits of barley, offset Hoyer's leadership in passing the financial services industry bailout, the so-called economic stimulus package, or the health care overhaul which is belching bad news almost daily now that it's the law?

The damaging effects of welfare on the individual are widely discussed and documented, but what of a state's dependence on welfare? With the private sector tanking and federal budget deficits soaring to record numbers, Maryland's gravy train is about to derail, and we're not remotely ready for it.

Yes, the Free State thinks it's getting free money from the federal government. There are two truths that will never change, however. There's no such thing as a free lunch, and the time always comes when you have to pay the piper.

Ron Miller, of Huntingtown, is a military veteran, conservative writer and activist, communications director for the Calvert County Republican Party, and executive director of Regular Folks United, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.  Ron is a regular contributor to, American Thinker, and You can also follow Ron on his website, as well as Twitter and Facebook.

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