Archive for category Uncategorized

This week on ARJ & LRJ: Steve Bloom Talks Right to Work on Lincoln Radio Journal


(April 1, 2017 – April 7, 2017) This week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Lowman Henry talks with State Representative Stephen Bloom about making Pennsylvania a Right-to-Work state; Frank Gamrat and Eric Montarti have an Allegheny Institute Report on efforts to raise the hotel tax in Allegheny County; And, Beth Anne Mumford from Americans for Prosperity-PA has a Lincoln Radio Journal commentary on why state budget deliberations lack serious reform.

(April 1, 2017 – April 7, 2017) This week on American Radio Journal: Lowman Henry talks with David Schoenbrod author of DC Confidential about the five tricks of Washington politicians; Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on how moderates killed health care reform; Eric Boehm of Reason magazine reviews the history of health care reform efforts; And, Col. Frank Ryan, USMC, Ret. has an American Radio Journal commentary on how property taxes are killing the dream of home ownership.

Leave a comment

This week on ARJ & LRJ + Ben Shapiro Talks PA Leadership Conference on Lincoln Radio Journal


(March 25, 2017 -March 31, 2017) This week on Lincoln Radio Journal: David Taylor of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association talks with Daily Signal editor and PA Leadership Conference featured speaker Ben Shapiro about conservatism in the age of Trump; And, Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on breaking congressional rules.

(March 25, 2017 – March 31, 2017) This week on American Radio Journal: Lowman Henry talks with Elizabeth Slattery of the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal about how the Gorsuch confirmation process compares to past such proceedings; Doug Sachtleben of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on special elections to fill seats vacated by congressmen taking positions in the Trump Administration; Eric Boehm and Damon Root of Reason magazine look at what we learned from the Neil Gorsuch confirmation hearings; And, Dr. Paul Kengor from the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College has an American Radio Journal commentary on ranking the presidents.

Leave a comment

This week on ARJ & LRJ


(March 18, 2017 – March 24, 2017) This week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Lowman Henry talks with Anne McElhinney author of Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer; Joe Geiger from the First Nonprofit Foundation has Deborah Allen from the Pennsylvania Behavioral Health & Aging Coalition in the Community Benefit Spotlight; And, Beth Anne Mumford of Americans for Prosperity-PA has a Lincoln Radio Journal commentary on the GOP’s promise to repeal Obamacare.
(March 18, 2017 – March 24, 2017) This week on American Radio Journal: Lowman Henry talks with Doug Badger of the Galen Institute about how many will actually lose coverage under the GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan; Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on where that plan stands in congress; Eric Boehm of Reason magazine talks with Adam Andrzejewski of Open the Books about federal laws blocking transparency of the public pension system; And, Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on playing the Trump card in health care reform.

Leave a comment

This week on ARJ & LRJ


(March 4, 2017 – March 10, 2017) This week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Lowman Henry talks with Chris Nicholas of Eagle Consulting about how Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators are navigating the new political landscape in Washington, D.C.; Eric Montarti and Frank Gamrat have an Allegheny Institute Report on the latest attempt to enact a severance tax on natural gas drillers; And, Anna McCauslin from Americans for Prosperity-PA has a Lincoln Radio Journal commentary on the impact of raising the minimum wage.
(March 4, 2017 – March 10, 2017) This week on American Radio Journal: Lowman Henry talks with Alison Winters of the Charles Koch Institute about policy initiatives in the President’s address to congress; Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on why congress has not yet repealed Obamacare; Eric Boehm and Ron Bailey of Reason magazine have a report on reforming the Federal Drug Administration; And, Dr. Paul Kengor from the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College has an American Radio Journal commentary on the Left’s latest hypocrisy. 

Leave a comment

Not Your Father 


A Pity Party, Not a TEA Party 
By Lowman S. Henry

The protests began immediately upon the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency. Stunned by an election defeat they did not see coming; the far reaches of the Left reacted by taking to the streets in a brat fit seldom seen in American politics.

 The temper tantrum has not subsided.

 In the weeks and months since the 2016 Presidential election celebrities have vented on award shows, the aggrieved (even those who don’t know why they are aggrieved) have taken to the streets, to airports and even to the gates of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Lacking any discernible set of principles let alone a strategy for implementing them, it seems the only tactic remaining is for powerless Left wingers to complain – and to do so loudly.

 The pending repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act – which turned out to be not so affordable – has sent protesters scurrying to town hall meetings held by various Republican members of congress. This has given rise to comparisons to the grassroots TEA party movement that gained considerable influence early in the Obama presidency.

 But this is not your father’s TEA party. The differences between the TEA party movement of the Right and what we see happening today transcend mere ideology. The TEA party movement is reviled by the Left precisely because it occupies that sweet spot in American politics that brings together conservatives and much of the center. Its goals are clear; its principles are strongly rooted in the nation’s history and culture; and at its core it presents an optimistic vision for the future.

 The effectiveness of the TEA party scared the bejesus out of the Obama Administration to the point it began using government power, namely the Internal Revenue Service, to hinder and harass development of the movement. Efforts at countering the TEA party surge with a hapless group loosely known as the Occupy movement ended up being nothing more than an opportunity for frustrated campers to spend a few weeks in public parks.

 The week after the Presidential inauguration and the so-called “women’s march” protests that followed I was in Washington, D.C. As I sat at a downtown restaurant awaiting a breakfast meeting I struck up a conversation with the server and commented that the previous week must have been exciting. The expression on his face changed to one of anger as he recounted how protesters had smashed out the windows of the restaurant causing it to have to close for a day. For him that meant a day of lost wages.

 This illustrates a key difference between the TEA party movement and what is happening today on the American Left. TEA partiers did not vandalize buildings and set fire to cars. Protesters opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline, apparently lacking in employment, spent weeks in an encampment. When they left litter and debris was strewn across acres of formerly pristine land. TEA party activists are respectful of public places, value private property and channeled their anger into policy reform.  

 And the TEA party movement is about free speech and helping average Americans make their voices heard in the halls of government. The current blob of Left wing protesters seeks to stifle free speech. They have kept conservatives from speaking at college campuses and even blocked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from entering a public school. This is a favorite tactic of the Left: when you can’t win the argument, prevent the other side from arguing.

 Then there are the optics. When the TEA party rallies you see American and Gadsden flags, not women parading about town wearing hats replicating their private parts. Americans in the persuadable middle of the political spectrum are not going to be swayed on policy matters by violence and pornographic headwear. If a rally or protest looks like a Barnum & Bailey sideshow, then it won’t be taken seriously by average Americans who are looking only for family sustaining jobs for themselves and better educational opportunities for their children.

 No, the endless protests are not going to morph into a TEA party of the Left. Rather what you have is a pity party thrown by a group of people with nothing to offer but footage to fill the screens of the mainstream news media.

 (Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

 Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

Leave a comment

2016 Republican Delegate/Alternate Delegate Survey: Supreme Court, Terrorist, Constitutional Rights Top Delegate Concerns


Pennsylvania’s delegation to the 2016 Republican National Convention rated U.S. Supreme Court nominations, terrorism and protecting constitutional rights as the most important issues facing the nation while viewing the GOP-controlled congress as having failed to effectively counter the policies of President Barack Obama.

The Lincoln Institute’s quadrennial survey of delegates and alternate delegates found economic issues outweighed social issues and foreign affairs in their selection of a presidential candidate, but 60% said a combination of all three issue sets factored into their decision.

That was reflected in the importance given to the various issues facing the nation.  No social issues topped the delegation’s list of important issues.  A clear concern over fundamental rights emerged from the survey data as the selection of nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court topped the importance scale with 90% saying the seating of justices was a very important issue.  Concerns over ISIS/terrorism rated as second most important, but protecting constitutional rights followed closely as the delegation’s third most important area of concern.  Jobs and the economy, the budget deficit/government spending and illegal immigration rounded out the top concerns.

Pennsylvania’s delegation hues to traditional Republican positions on President Obama’s job performance.  Eighty-seven percent say his administration’s foreign policies have made the United States much less secure; only one delegate thought those policies have made the nation more secure.  When asked if President Obama was on the right track or wrong track in responding to the threat of ISIS and international terrorism there was unanimity – 100% said wrong track.  Until the threat of ISIS/terrorism has ended, 64% of the delegation thinks the U.S. should ban entry of citizens from countries that are hotbeds of terrorist activity; 26% want to ban all Muslims from entering the country; 13% say current laws are sufficient. Eighty-nine percent of the delegates/alternate delegates strongly disapprove of the Obama Administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, another 8% somewhat disapprove.  Only 3% expressed approval.

When asked if the U.S. economy is on the right track or off in the wrong direction 97% said wrong direction.  Ninety-two percent of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Republican National Convention places the blame for the nation’s economic ills on President Obama, but majorities also fault labor unions and congress.  There is strong support, 72% with another 26% somewhat supporting lowering tax rates as a means of stimulating economic growth.

The delegation, reflecting the views of its presumptive presidential nominee, opposes free trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Sixty-nine percent oppose TPP with 31% expressing strong opposition.  In terms of balancing the federal budget, 79% would do so only by cutting spending; 21% would employ a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts.  Concern was voiced over the viability of the Social Security system: 57% think the system will be around for future generations – but only with substantial changes.  Forty percent think Social Security is headed to bankruptcy; only 4% think it will survive without changes. To provide for the nation’s energy needs, 93% favor more domestic drilling as a solution; 50% support development of alternative fuels and 30% urge conservation.

Illegal immigration has been a dominate issue in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.  The Pennsylvania delegation to the Republican national convention reflects his stance on the issue.  Fifty-six percent of the delegation wants immediate deportation of illegal aliens; 23% would accept granting permanent worker status.  Not a single delegate favors granting illegal aliens full citizenship.

Also spurring Donald Trump’s march to the Republican Presidential nomination was grassroots frustration with the ineffectiveness of the party’s elected officials in Washington, D.C.  Eighty percent of the Pennsylvania delegation said the Republican-controlled congress has been ineffective at checking President Obama’s executive power.

As a result, over two-thirds hold a negative view of the job being done by the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

A strong anti-government thread is woven into the state’s delegation as 97% said they view the federal government as an adversarial force when it comes to helping solve problems. Only two delegates view the federal government as a positive force.  Likewise, 97% say our basic rights as Americans are God-given; only two delegates view our rights as granted to us by government.

State Issues

The Lincoln Institute’s survey of delegates/alternate delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention found 92% want Republicans in the general assembly to continue holding the line on more spending and higher taxes.  Ironically, those views were expressed as the GOP-controlled legislature approved a state budget which dramatically increased spending and included a wide array of tax hikes.  Ninety-six percent agree with the strategy – now abandoned by Republican legislative leaders – that cost drivers like pension reform should be addressed before the general assembly considers any increase in taxes.

Sixty-five percent of the delegation feels the property tax-based system currently utilized by school districts, local and county governments to fund services is unfair to taxpayers. There is little agreement though on how to otherwise raise revenue.  Twenty percent favor a higher state sales tax rate while 16% would support a more broad based state sales tax at the current rate.  There was nominal support for local sales taxes, local earned income taxes or a higher state income tax.  On a related note, 61% favor allowing vouchers or grants to students who wish to attend a public school in a district other than their own, 32% do not.

Generally speaking, 60% of the delegates/alternate delegates think the state income tax rate is too high, another 41% say it is about right. Eighty-seven percent feel state business taxes are too high, only 13% think taxes on business are about right.  When it comes to economic development, 96% favor having the state cut business taxes and regulation.  Just 4% favor having the state borrow money to help select business ventures.

There is strong support among Pennsylvania’s delegation for a Right to Work Law, which means that a worker cannot be fired or kept from having a job for either joining or not joining a labor union. Eighty-five percent favor the adoption of a right to work law.  On a related issue, 76% support enacting a ban on public school teacher strikes.

Delegation Composition

Pennsylvania’s delegation to the Republican National Convention is a very conservative one.  Forty percent say they are very conservative, another 47% say they are somewhat conservative.  Thirteen percent proclaimed themselves to be moderates, and one delegate adopted the very liberal/progressive title.

The delegation is skewed to higher age demographics.  About a third are over the age of 65, another third between the ages of 50-65.  Twenty-eight percent fall in the 30-50 age group, while only one respondent was under 30.  Of the delegates responding to the survey invitation 62% are male, 38% female.

Methodology

The Lincoln Institute survey of delegates/alternate delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention was conducted electronically between June 28 and July 14. 2016.  A total of 73 delegates/alternate delegates participated in the survey.  Complete numeric results are available on-line at www.lincolninstitute.org.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Register of Wills And Justice of the Supreme Court


It is not very often that a Register of Wills makes statewide headlines.  But Bruce Hanes, holder of that ministerial office in the suburban Philadelphia County of Montgomery did just that recently when he began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.  Apparently in his spare time Mr. Hanes dons black robes and fancies himself a state supreme court justice as he unilaterally proclaimed Pennsylvania law prohibiting same sex marriage to be unconstitutional.

The office of Register of Wills – known fully as Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans Court – is one of a number of so-called  “row offices,” that perform a variety of administrative functions for the county court system.  These offices date back to the pre-electronic age when a wide range of clerical tasks were broken up into various categories each assigned to an elective office.  Some counties in Pennsylvania have updated the process by adopting a home rule charter and consolidating the functions into fewer offices.

At no point has the Register of Wills been viewed as a policy-making office let alone a judicial one. The actions of Mr. Hanes were so outside the norm that even the statewide association of Registers of Wills rebuked him by adopting a resolution opposing the issuance of marriage licenses to same sex couples. This will apparently spare Penn’s Woods from enduring a wave of Registers of Wills gone rogue.  Clearly most holders of the office have a better understanding of the limits of their governmental duties than does Mr. Hanes.

The action of Mr. Hanes can be viewed in a number of contexts.  It could be merely a crass publicity stunt meant to raise his profile and secure the support of a key voting block for the next election, perhaps even a run for higher office.  It could, and likely is, a set-up for legal challenges.  Such court activity has increased greatly in the wake of recent rulings on same sex marriage by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Regardless, the issuance of same sex marriage licenses by Mr. Hanes has received considerable news coverage, most of it positive, and resulted in numerous editorials and commentaries heralding his historic stand in favor of same sex unions.  But, let’s take the issue of same sex marriage out of the equation.  Replace it, if you will, with gun rights.  Would the reaction be the same?

Imagine that a sheriff in one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties decided that gathering information on gun owners to issue a License to Carry Firearms was unconstitutional.  Given that the state constitution says the right of the people to possess a firearm “shall not be questioned,” there is plausible legal basis for such a position.  Now what would happen if that sheriff decided to begin issuing carry licenses to anybody who walked into his office; requiring no ID, gathering none of the information required by law, no questions asked?  The howls of protest from the media and the denizens of the Left would resonate from Lake Erie to the banks of the Delaware.  That sheriff would be vilified, classified as a Neanderthal, impeached and removed from office.

But how is that scenario any different from what Bruce Hanes has done in Montgomery County?  There is no difference.  The issue here is not same sex marriage – that is an entirely different debate.  The issue is the rule of law and following the constitutionally prescribed methods for changing laws with which we may disagree.  The disturbing trend of elected officials, from the President of the United States, to the state Attorney General to a Register of Wills, deciding for himself what laws are constitutional and which they will enforce must be stopped dead in its tracks before our entire system of government dissolves into utter chaos.

Register Hanes, like our mythical sheriff, have clear channels to pursue the policy changes they desire.  The law itself can be changed by a majority vote of both houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and obtaining the signature of the governor.  Those who feel a duly enacted law may violate either the state or the federal constitution have remedy in the courts.  Supporters of same sex marriage are in fact doing just that, as is their right.  Those forums, not the unilateral actions of a county administrative official, are the appropriate channels for debate and resolution of this issue.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

 

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Debt Ceiling Deal: GOP Win or Loss?


By Colin Hanna

Let Freedom Ring, USA

What actually happened last week on the debt ceiling?  Did John Boehner and the Republicans cave to President Obama and the Democrats?  Or did they wisely re-sequence the whole fiscal debate?

There are three big deadlines that face the nation’s fiscal health in the next five months or so.  In order, they are first, the debt ceiling, second the postponed sequester and third, the expiration of the Continuing Resolution. These terms are not familiar to many, in part because they’re complicated and in part because the policymakers prefer to be the only parties who understand them, and the more the public is confused and in the dark, the more latitude they have in making policy.

Hitting the debt ceiling means that the federal government has borrowed as much as it is permitted by Congress to borrow.  That amount has skyrocketed during the Obama years, although it began its sharp rise during the Bush years.  In George W. Bush’s eight years, it went from just under 6 trillion to about 10 trillion.  In Barack Obama’s four years, it has gone from about 10 trillion to over 16 trillion.  That’s an obviously unsustainable path of increase – and more than double George Bush’s rate.  No wonder that the increase that Congress approved in 2011 was reached so quickly.

When will the debt ceiling be reached?  That depends on statistics from the US Treasury Department, and Treasury Secretary Geithner says that the limit was reached about December 31, and conveniently just after the Presidential election.  But because money comes into the federal government at a faster rate at this time of year, there’s still enough to cover interest and other expenses as they become due.  That will no longer be the case in another four weeks or so, and if nothing were done about it, some bills would need to be left unpaid, at least temporarily.  Who gets to decide which bills get paid and which ones get deferred?  Why the Executive branch, meaning the President and his cabinet departments.  Would they possibly play politics with which ones get paid and which ones don’t?  You can count on it – just like a school board facing a budget shortfall .  They always threaten the most popular programs, so that taxpayers  accept a tax increase as the inevitable cost of continuing those programs.  You can count on the same kind of demagoguery from the Obama administration.  It already started with their saying that not raising the debt ceiling risks default on our sovereign debt, putting the full faith and credit of the United States in play.  That’s nonsense, and the President and his treasury secretary know it – but it’s useful rhetoric with which to frighten the American people into supporting higher taxes, which of course Democrats like to euphemize as revenue.

As it stood at the beginning of last week, the debt ceiling would have been the first deadline reached – and probably the hardest to negotiate.

The sequester is the set of harsh cuts imposed as result of the inability of the foolishly-named Super Committee last summer to reach a deal.  They were thought to be such heavy-handed and arbitrary cuts that the Super Committee would work out fairer and better cuts, but it didn’t turn out that way.  Those cuts come into play on March 1.  There’s some advantage in letting them happen.  First, the worst effects they produce don’t occur immediately.

Second, they truly do lower spending, which absolutely must be the number one goal of all of these measures.  Once those lower levels of spending are set, they constitute current law.  A new and higher budget would be required for even partial restoration – thus forcing the hand of Harry Reid’s irresponsible Senate finally to enact a budget.  The threat to escrow Senators’ salaries if a budget is not passed just adds a little common sense pressure, since merely obeying the law doesn’t seem to be a sufficient incentive for the Senate to do its work. A budget is one of the clear requirements to return us to fiscal sanity.

The continuing resolution’s expiration on March 27th means that, in the absence of a new budget, the government will need to start a partial shutdown or slowdown in spending.  And this adds to the pressure on the Senate to pass a budget.

This week’s House vote to extend the debt ceiling limit to a date in May rather than to a new dollar level takes the debt ceiling debate out of the first position in the time sequence and puts it in the last – which is where it logically should be.  Now the House and Senate can work out a budget first, which then eliminates the need for a Continuing Resolution extension, and once a budget is in place attention can properly turn to the debt limit.  It’s not the political loss for Republicans that some pundits have posited.  Many of my best friends in the conservative movement have harshly criticized it.  But it’s actually a win for fiscal sanity.

(Colin Hanna is President of Let Freedom Ring, USA and a regular commentator on American Radio Journal.  Find him on the web at www.letfreedomringusa.com.)

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Will the Law of Unintended Consequences Turn Obama’s SCOTUS Victory Into Defeat?


By Colin Hanna

It’s not a pretty sound, the braying of donkeys.  President Obama pretentiously claims that the Supreme Court decision affirming the constitutionality of his health care law is, “a victory for people across the Country.”  The Huffington Post, in the largest headline I have ever seen on that site, self-righteously blares a single word in red, bold type: JUSTICE.  I can only imagine what the likes of Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow and Sergeant Schultz will say over on MSNBC.  But once that tiresome braying dies down, my question is: will the law of unintended consequences take over?  Will this ruling have the unintended consequence of reenergizing the Tea Party like nothing else could have done?  Will this fuel the money machines of the right, the Republican National Committee, the Romney campaign, his SuperPAC and other outside groups like Crossroads, FreedomWorks, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth?  Will it, as Arizona Congressman David Schweikert said, mean that, from now until November, it’s 2010 all over again?  I think that’s quite likely.

ObamaCare is unpopular with a large swath of America.  A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 53% of Americans oppose the law.  Now that it has been justified and unmasked as a tax instead of a mandate, will that suddenly increase its appeal?  I think not.  So while others on the right are now lambasting the Court and especially the Chief Justice for their decision, I think we should focus our attention instead on the one Court that’s actually higher than the Supreme Court: the court of public opinion and the sovereign power of the people at election time.  Unless Republicans and conservatives do a terrible job of reminding the public why they did not like this unprecedented expansion of government, this intrusion into the economy and the staggering accumulation of debt that will accompany it, then the ultimate loser may well be President Obama – but by no means the only loser. Democratic Senatorial and Congressional candidates may taste once again the sting of public anger that they faced at the forums of 2009 and the elections of 2010.

The bottom line is really not that complicated. As Mitt Romney said shortly after the decision, “ObamaCare is bad medicine.”  Senator Marco Rubio said, “What’s important to remember is that what the court rules on is whether something is constitutional or not, not whether it’s a good idea. And while the court has said that the law is constitutional, it remains a bad idea for our economy, and I hope that in the fall we will have a majority here that will not just repeal this law, but replace it with real solutions that will insure more people and cost a lot less money.”  That last part will be the key:  if conservatives are disciplined and successful in keeping their legislative focus on repeal and their policy focus on what consumer-directed health care would look like if Republicans win back the Senate and White House and hold the House of Representatives, they’ll win the day, not Obama and his vision of neo-European statism.  Republicans must pose a winning moral argument, not just a material one.  Bills like Georgia Congressman, and doctor, Tom Price’s H.R. 3000 should now be looked at to see if they meet Senator Mitch McConnell’s claim that, “We can do better.”  The immediate battle cry in the House of Representatives should be “no funding, no implementation, and full repeal.”  But that will never win the day in the Senate and will never make it to the President’s veto pen.  But they must not stop there.  They do not need to completely finish an alternative bill.  That would be futile with this Senate and this President.  All they need to do, and it’s no small task, is articulate a superior vision that is consistent with the free market system, the Constitution and the values of outside the beltway America.  If they do that, this Supreme Court decision could well be seen as the catalyst for a conservative revival.  The law of unintended consequences will have rescued our nation from the designs of an oppressive and repressive élite.

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Real Fiscal Conservatism


Fiscal restraint is a key component of conservatism. Some take this to mean spending less is always better and that all spending cuts are good. But, true fiscal conservatism also requires that when we do spend, it is done efficiently and effectively so we get the most benefit from each tax dollar.

In reality, some spending – even by government – is necessary to avoid the need to spend even more money down the road. For example, fixing a leaking roof when the first signs of water appear on the ceiling is far less expensive than waiting until the ceiling collapses before stopping the leak. The same principle applies to government spending. It is less expensive to keep a bridge in good repair thus extending its life than to replace it frequently. In terms of human services, it is better to provide care early rather than to allow conditions to worsen and become more costly both from a humane and a financial perspective.

That is why current proposals to cut state spending on human services are short sighted and destined to create bigger problems in the future. There is no doubt that state government is bloated, spending cuts must and should be made, and that taxpayers cannot afford higher taxes. To that end Governor Corbett is absolutely following the right course by drawing a line in the spending sand.

But with $27 billion to spend priorities must be established. Government must perform its core functions such as providing for public safety, transportation infrastructure and a reasonable social safety net. To do this it is neither necessary nor desirable for state government to become a super charity, but there is widespread agreement that those in need of assistance through no fault of their own should be rendered such help.

For example, several years ago the state’s mental hospitals were closed and treatment programs were largely devolved to the counties. As is typical, state government mandated counties provide such services without establishing a corresponding adequate flow of funds. Counties and nonprofit agencies are already struggling – with limited success – to fill the need. Now they face having to do the job with even fewer resources. Much like the leaky roof or bridge that needs repaired; early intervention is far preferable to allowing medical conditions to worsen. Or, as happens all too frequently, the person commits an act that requires a trip through the criminal justice system followed by expensive incarceration.

Such indiscriminate cutting of the state budget masks an even bigger problem. It allows budget-makers to avoid making the really difficult decisions that deal with the fundamental problems confronting the commonwealth. To carry our roof analogy a step further, it is like slapping a coat of paint on the ceiling to mask the water stain rather than replacing the shingles so the roof stops leaking.

Cutting human service funding may help balance this year’s budget. But it doesn’t address the underlying cost drivers that put us in this mess. Antiquated prevailing wage laws will continue to drive up the cost of building projects. Bloating of the welfare rolls siphons off money that should be spent on the truly needy. A public education system lacking in choice remains archaic, ineffective and expensive. The state’s outdated liquor store monopoly holds captive funding that could be better spent addressing core needs. Our prison system cries out for reform to bring a halt to escalating incarceration costs.

These changes require strong leadership and courageous votes. But rather than address these structural problems, those responsible for crafting our state budget prefer to take the easy way out and cut spending for programs that benefit our aging, mentally challenged, chemically dependent, and otherwise truly needy citizens. Such an approach is not just financially short-sighted, it is morally unjust.

Before this year’s state budget is adopted lawmakers should restore the proposed funding cuts to human services, and begin taking the steps necessary to address the factors that are driving up costs beyond our ability to pay. For all too many years our elected officials have behaved like politicians rather than like legislators. The time for bold leadership, principled votes and a fundamental reordering or our state’s fiscal priorities has arrived. That is a truly conservative approach to governing.

  (Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment