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Real conservatives don’t find new ways to grow government 

Real conservatives don’t find new ways to grow government 

Wayne Hoffman
June 12, 2023

Gov. Brad Little’s socialist Idaho Launch program, which steals $8,000 a piece from people who earned it and gives it to high school graduates who didn’t, is already running into headwinds. Ironically, the program hasn’t even “launched” yet. 

“What they’re doing right now does not align with the legislative intent, with the bill that I helped author,” Rep. Megan Blanksma, the House Majority Leader, told Idaho Education News last week. The leftist news outlet observed Blanksma sitting in the back of the room at a recent meeting of the Workforce Development Council. The government board is tasked with defining what an “in-demand career” actually is because lawmakers didn’t. Those are the careers which students will be gifted a share of the $100 million program for going into. 

It’s not shocking that things aren’t going as planned. That’s what happens with government programs. An elected official might imagine things going one way, but then years later — or in the case of the Idaho Launch program, months later — it’s on a whole other track. 

Such is the problem, generally, with government programs; they rarely execute the way one would hope. Yet it is so common for people to call themselves conservative and still promote more government. 

I got this sensation when I interviewed Eagle Mayor Jason Piece. The mayor says he’s a conservative, perhaps more so than the mayor he was elected to replace. But he’s making the same classic assumptions about the programs he’s implementing, and those assumptions always lead to bigger, more intrusive government. Not sometimes. Always. 

We talked about a city government program that brings fiber optic Internet connectivity to businesses and residents in the city. Asked if he’s concerned that the city could, one day, use that system against its residents — e.g., control the flow of information to clients based on the subject matter being sent and received or based on political leanings of the people who are using the system — Pierce offered that people need to pay attention to elections, to make sure the right folks are in office controlling the system. 

Pierce provided the same answer regarding the city’s decision to annex a development in the county. Wouldn’t that annexation necessarily lead to more city revenue and, therefore, more government? I asked. Same response: Elect the right people to make sure these things don’t happen. 

That’s not very conservative. Government always grows and morphs, and promises about existing programs or conditions are always forgotten, broken, or taken up by new people who have no allegiance to what was previously promised. 

Examples from recent history abound. Take the College of Western Idaho, which promised never to bother taxpayers for more money when it was created in 2007 but did it anyway; or Medicaid expansion which promised to save taxpayers money but is now a huge drain on the state budget just five years later; or the state health insurance exchange, which in 2013 promised to operate differently than the federal exchange but is virtually indistinguishable from it. 

I don’t know whether Pierce is conservative or not. Unlike state elected officials, who are measured against our Freedom Index, where it is easy to tell if there’s a disposition toward smaller, more limited government, nothing similar exists at the local government level. All I can say is that when government officials promise new programs and an increased tax base in the guise of “conservative” public policy, be wary. Real conservatives don’t find new ways to grow government. 

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