MARTY RUSSELL: Who gets the bucks in feds’ big spending?



Let’s forget about the candidates for a moment (if only the incessant robo-calls would allow us) and for one last time, at least in this column, prior to the Republican primary runoff less than a week away, revisit the facts about government spending.

Most of us would agree that taxes are too high and the government spends like a drunken sailor. But just where does the bulk of that money go and, as a result, where is it most wasted? The answer: Red states. That’s right. It’s states that largely vote Republican that receive the lion’s share of federal largess with Mississippi right up there at the top.

Numerous studies by economists and independent groups not tied to one political party or another have come to the same conclusion based on the actual expenditures of federal funds per state versus the return in tax dollars to Washington. And they all point to the biggest “takers” of federal monies versus “givers” as being solidly Republican, mostly states in the South and Southwest.

Yet most, not all, politicians in those states continue to rail against federal deficit spending and campaign on promises of abolishing it, either by cutting federal programs or doing away with them altogether. It creates a paradox. It’s like saying, “I’m against drinking but I’ll have another.”

And it’s not that Republicans are any better than Democrats at bringing home the bacon. Both sides are guilty of pork barrel politics. The bulk of federal spending is in health and welfare programs so the money tends to flow where it’s most needed, and that’s to states where the largest percentages of their population are low-income which means they can’t afford adequate food and preventive health care.

So anytime a Republican from the South or Southwest rails against federal spending aren’t they really saying of their own constituents, “Let them eat cake?”

It’s just pandering for votes by creating a boogeyman out of the federal government to divert attention from their states’ own problems which are the cause of the spending in the first place. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear a political candidate, although it would amount to political suicide, say for once, “Washington’s not the problem. We’re the problem, and if we’re going to fix spending at the federal level we’ve got to improve things here at home first?”

Instead, most of the states, like Mississippi, that rejected expanding Medicare were Republican states, those that need it most.

But that’s politics for you. Either no one wants to accept the blame when they can point a finger at somebody else or they really don’t care about the folks back home without adequate food or health care as long as those who do have it keep electing them.

It’s sad, really. Aren’t politicians supposed to represent everyone in their state, not just those who got them elected?

So, as your mama always told you, be careful what you wish for.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at

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  • vechorik

    … and lick the hand that feeds you.