In 2004, the federal government spent $12,885 per person in Alaska and $12,150 per person in Virginia -- the two “luckiest” states -- but doled out only an equivalent of $5,469 per resident to Nevada.
Minnesota and Wisconsin completed the “bottom three,” drawing only $5,644 and $5,727 per capita, respectively. Maryland, New Mexico and Hawaii completed the “top five,” with the Aloha state raking in $9,650 per resident.
The knee-jerk reaction among many Nevadans was to complain that our congressional delegation need to improve its performance in bringing home our “fair share” of congressional porkfat -- bridges to nowhere, highway “demonstration projects,” federal grants for expensive bird-counting computers -- heck, we don’t care what it is, just as long as we get some more.
And, ever mindful of keeping the constituents happy, those representatives and senators can be counted on to promise -- and presumably endeavor -- to do just that.
More’s the pity.
Because, in fact, nearly half of federal spending in 2004 -- it’s expected to make up an even bigger share in future -- went to such social welfare “entitlement” programs as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
Medicaid, specifically, is a program for the poor. Federal funds for many such programs tend to “match” state government spending. They’re supposed to create a “safety net” for those who aren’t making it on their own.
Should Nevadans worry that we’re “too low” when it comes time to rank states by federal spending intended to relieve pockets of poverty, crime, and pollution? Should we worry we’re doing “too well” when it comes to making it on our own?
“We have one of the lower percentages of people living at or below the federal poverty level, and since a fair amount of federal spending is poverty related, it would follow that we have a relatively low per capita federal poverty expenditure,” explains state Sen. Bob Beers, who’s also a CPA.
“The same statistic is reflected in our Medicaid numbers. Detractors complain we have one of the lowest Medicaid spending rates in the nation, per capita. But when you divide it among the recipients, we’re over 20 percent higher than California.” Fewer recipients, each getting more money.
“In addition, the primary mission of our two largest military bases is training military personnel from other states,” Sen. Beers notes, “so much of the economic activity gets attributed in these statistical studies to the home states” from which those trainees are drawn. “It also surprises people to learn we have a lower rate of senior citizens per capita than other states.”
But the larger question here is why Nevadans should join any national stampede to demand that ever more funds get sucked out of our paychecks and bank accounts, shunted up the vacuum hose to Washington, and then doled back to us as though we were mendicant orphans in the soup line, always with new federal “strings” attached. (“Did you want your tire and gasoline excises back in the form of ‘federal’ highway funds? Hold on just a minute there -- let’s check your helmet and speed-limit laws, and let’s count those new bike paths.”)
In fact, Nevada is in the strongest imaginable position to declare, “Thank heavens. We’re proud that, thanks to our relatively laissez-faire, low-tax, less-regulated economic and political climate, we require less of a federal ‘dole’ than any other state. Now’s the time for other states to follow our example, demanding that their own congressional delegations move to reduce the amount of everyone’s wealth being ‘laundered’ through Washington.”
Why not just allow Nevadans -- and anyone else who’d like to join us -- to keep more of our own earnings, in the first place, instead of allowing Washington to pretend they’re “giving us” back some varying share of what was always ours, in the first place?