By Bradley Harrington
“No, I didn’t say anything about taxes, Steve… I want the government to stop spending. Stop spending. Stop spending! Stop spending! That’s what we want… STOP SPENDING!” — Rick Santelli, responding to Steve Liesman’s statement that Santelli wants to cut taxes to reduce the deficit, “CNBC Squawk Box,” 2010 —
Just in case anyone hasn’t noticed, a major source of Wyoming’s state funding revenue — mineral and fossil fuel royalties — is dying a dramatically slow death.
Consequently, back in June, Gov. Matt Mead cut $248 million out of the 2017-2018 biennium budget, which began on July 1. “Painful” cuts that were necessary “due to massive shortfalls in revenue from mineral extraction industries on which the bulk of Wyoming’s budget is based.” (“Gov. Matt Mead says $248 million in budget cuts ‘painful,’” WTE, June 22.)
Not “painful” enough, however, at least apparently — for our state officials are still throwing away money like drunken sailors:
“Gov. Matt Mead and Wyoming’s four other top elected officials approved $41 million in loans Thursday for three companies… The five elected leaders, serving as the State Loan and Investment Board, approved two economic development loans for $15 million and one for $11 million.” (“Wyoming leaders approve $15 million loan for company to build new plant in Cheyenne,” WTE, Oct. 7.)
So, who are the recipients of these plundered “loan” dollars? Denver-based Standard Alcohol got the first because it “wants to build a $76 million production plant at Swan Ranch south of Cheyenne”; Gillette-based Atlas Carbon got the second to “expand its activated carbon plant” there; and Cody-based Cody Laboratories got the third handout to “expand its pharmaceutical manufacturing process” there.
All of which merits the questions: WHY are our state officials even in the “business” of offering “loans” to private companies in the first place? Isn’t that what banks are for? And if the banks don’t believe these industry “expansions” are economically viable — which, they must not, otherwise these corporate “welfare” queens would be getting their loans from them — what makes the SLIB think they’ve got more on the ball than the banks do?
The concept of an “investment,” furthermore, is predicated on the supposition that it is private funds being spent in order to make private profit. Looted tax dollars don’t qualify and can never create even ONE job; the best that these bailout binges can ever hope to accomplish is to fill the hole created by the initial act of plunder.
Government, we should always remember, can only give away what it has forcefully seized from others first. How about the jobs that would have been created if that $41 million had been left in the pockets of those who earned it? Jobs that no one sees because they don’t exist any longer, or never got created to begin with?
And, while we’re on the subject of jobs, let’s talk about Wyoming’s job market for a little bit.
According to Sven Larson, Economic Consultant at Hill City Skunkworks here in Cheyenne, who has taken the time to compile a host of statistics from the Bureau of Labor, “statewide, 11,000 private-sector jobs vanished… of which 5,600 were minerals jobs.” (“Larson’s Economic Newsletter,” Sep., 2016.)
So, how about the “job market” in Wyoming state government? How many jobs can we expect our “public servants” to lose in the face of this kind of unemployment onslaught? According to the first story quoted above, “about seven current state workers may lose their jobs as a result of the latest cuts.” Wow.
And more: On the local level, Mr. Larson found that “while private businesses laid off almost 11,000 people from March 2015 to March 2016, local governments added 470 people to their payrolls.”
And THIS, Dear Reader, is being offered up to you in the name of “fiscal responsibility.” Clearly, our “leaders” don’t have a clue — they don’t even have a clue that they don’t have a clue — and obviously they think everything is just “business” as usual.
Plainly, however, the game is up for runaway government spending sprees — and, in an interview, Mr. Larson spelled out the incontestable answer for Wyoming’s budgetary future: “What we have now is a permanent loss of revenue, so what we need is permanent reductions in spending.”
And the best place to start with that, I submit, is to get rid of these bogus boondoggle SLIB “loans.” If someone finds themselves in the position of not being able to grow their business, what on Earth makes such people think they’ve got the “right” to plunder the pockets of their neighbors? Just because they “need” it? Well, so does any other burglar.
So, come the 2017 legislative session, our state officials have some real work to do — and it remains to be seen whether they’ve got the guts and the brainpower to do it.
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the “Wyoming Tribune Eagle” on October 14, 2016. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.