Weekly Posting of the Conservative Cow Doctor


Magical Sacks

During college, I drove a 1973 Vega station wagon back and forth from the University of Wyoming home to our ranch on East Pass Creek. The Vega was horribly uncomfortable and since President Carter had recently imposed a 55 MPH federal speed limit, the trek home stretched into a long, boring, six hours. My racing striped wagon was also a gas hog with an exceptionally small gas tank, so I needed to find a gas station every 150 miles—preferably, one which actually had fuel. (For you readers under the age of 45, gasoline supplies were highly unreliable during the Carter years.)

The only bright spot of my journey home was the half-way point fuel stop in Casper had one of the only McDonalds in Wyoming. Within minutes, I filled my tank and balanced a bag holding two Big Macs, a large order of fries, and a medium root beer in the passenger seat. Since I was 18 years old and hungry most of the time, I inhaled all nourishment out of the McDonalds sack before I topped the hill north of Casper and this brings me to the magical sack part. For the next three boring hours, I probed my fingers through the hamburger wrappings and napkins searching for the last french fry. Just when the sack appeared empty, a single fry would poke its nose from under the seam in the bottom of the bag and I would ravage it. To this starving teenager, it was a miracle and this brings me to my point.

The Legislative Fiscal Division is projecting Montana could have a 426 million dollar ending fund balance by 2013. I am not sure it is even grammatically correct, but in a single sentence big government advocates are conveying the image this news demonstrates both their superior stewardship with the Montana checkbook, while exposing conservatives as evil because they failed to spend all the tax money collected. (There is an oxymoron in there somewhere.) Let us take off our rose colored glasses for a clearer view of our financial picture. Consider these facts:

1) One-half of Montana’s budget comes from the federal government; an entity currently borrowing 40 percent of every dollar they gift us. Therefore, it is the 51 percent of Americans (and Montanans) who actually pay income taxes who will ultimately foot the bill for this “free federal money.”

2) Montana’s 426 million dollar cushion ignores unfunded state pension liabilities which has passed 3 billion dollars and is climbing. Attention people in the private sector: Is your pension guaranteed because you are guaranteeing pensions in the public sector.

3) This 426 million is a projection; it is not money in the bank.

In the real world, our financial sack is empty. We can dig under the wrappers and check every seam, but there is no hidden french fry which will solve our economic woes. We do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. It is time for a fundamental change of government back to the form and size defined by our founders in the Constitution.

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