The Real Obesity Epidemic: Bloated State Spending

August 4, 2005

To an economist, the true cost of government to a society isn’t the level of taxes. It’s the level of spending. Every dollar spent by the state draws resources away from alternative uses in the private sector. Economists call this the opportunity cost of government, and it represents the true value of what we sacrifice as a society in exchange for the benefits of spending programs.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that legislation to curb state spending—as opposed to taxation—is now on the rise in some 20 states as various groups work to scale back the cost of government:

The idea: keep state governments from spending more than they take in. Known as TEL (tax and expenditure limitation), it has moved front and center in California, which will vote on the measure this fall, and in Ohio, which is considering doing so. Maine and Oregon are preparing initiatives for 2006. Conservative groups are poised to follow suit in 20 other states.

Some national observers see this as the beginning of a grass-roots rebellion remarkably similar to the tax-revolt brushfire that swept through California, Massachusetts, and other states 20 years ago. That movement limited how much states could tax. This one aims to curb how much they spend…

The new impetus comes more from citizens than legislatures. Although Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin have seen significant lawmaker support for such measures, 23 other state legislatures have raised the issue, and then done nothing.

“Citizens want to figure out how better to find ways that government can function without … locking into programs that are suddenly too expensive when revenues all off,” Mr. Waisanen says.

Read the full piece here.


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