The old shell game

Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2003

The front page of Wednesday's Empire featured an article headlined "Funds cut for substance abuse program," wherein House Republicans saved $1.6 million by upping the matching cost for grants to substance abuse programs by 150 percent. The rationalization as to how this was good for the people in need was that it freed that money to fund smaller programs that didn't require a match for their grants. It also noted (Rep. Jim Holm) that it was a personal responsibility issue aimed toward substance abusers.

This is apparently known as conservative Republican saving the taxpayer's money.

In the same article, the head of the DHSS administration clearly states that the expenditure of the money won't necessarily go to the smaller substance abuse community programs. In fact, it may be used anywhere that DHSS sees fit. Undoubtedly DHSS has many worthy places to use it but it already had a worthy place.

This is known in my world as bait and switch. The money isn't saved from the citizens pockets and doesn't reduce the overall budget. It merely goes from a clearly dedicated purpose to some other, less clearly defined and accountable paper bag where it can be spent as discretionary.

I am mentally losing the connection to both concepts of "personal responsibility" and "fiscal savings." In the real world, this used to be known as "flim-flam."

Christopher Wright


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