I am sort of mixed up on how some of our politicians really feel about the federal government. Almost daily, I hear one or more of them “cussing the feds” and proclaiming things like “states’ rights” forever. But then I read where the State of Alabama depends heavily on funds from Washington to operate state government. For example, more than a third of Alabama’s revenues in 2012 came from the U.S. federal government by way of grants and transfers. That’s according to researchers at the Pew Charitable Trusts, who are evaluating each state’s financial health as part of their ongoing Fiscal 50 series. I really don’t believe revenues to the states from the federal government are necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s our money since the federal government does get its money from taxpayers in each state. But I suspect Alabamians do better on their return on what we pay to Washington than do most states.
Unfortunately, Alabama state government revenues have failed to recover, relative to where they were before the national recession hit. That’s a fact that we have to live with. But Alabama has always relied on the federal government to fill gaps in its budget, even in so-called good times, and that hasn’t changed. Since George C. Wallace was governor, starting in 1963, politicians in our state have almost continuously used the federal government as a “whipping boy.” But at the same time, they were taking money from the feds at every opportunity. If that seems sort of hypocritical, that’s because it definitely is.
Personally, I have never believed the federal government to be the evil empire. Usually when politicians blame Washington for problems in their state, it’s primarily because they themselves weren’t doing their jobs very well. Maybe we should make peace with the federal government and work together – and in harmony – to solve our state’s economic and social problems. That approach might just work. In any event, it’s worth a try.
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