No one can say that Tennessee and the rest of the nation were not warned about the financial dangers of Congress' passage of the $862 billion so-called "stimulus."
Time and again, experts and "ordinary folks" alike made the commonsense observation that the stimulus would further bloat our national debt. They also pointed out that using stimulus funds to prop up state budgets would encourage states to put off hard spending cuts.
But those concerns were brushed aside as Democrats rushed to approve the stimulus on promises -- later disproved -- that it would vigorously boost the private sector and keep down unemployment.
Now the chickens are coming home to roost. As expected, some states failed to cut spending significantly after they got stimulus funds. And now, with the funds running out fast, some literally face the possibility of bankruptcy.
Even in conservative states such as Tennessee that behaved more responsibly, stimulus money only delayed, rather than eliminated, the need for deeper spending cuts. The heads of numerous state agencies went before Gov. Bill Haslam recently to spell out big new cuts that will be required to balance Tennessee's budget. Again and again, the loss of stimulus funds was cited as increasing the severity of the cuts.
Is that an argument for Congress to pass another stimulus? Certainly not! The first one failed miserably, leaving us in more debt and making government even bigger, but not holding down unemployment as promised. It didn't solve states' budget problems; it only put them off for another day.
Well, "another day" has inevitably arrived. And not only is the federal government unable to "rescue" the states with more stimulus spending, but it is saddling them with new multibillion-dollar costs related to ObamaCare. Nobody in Washington seems to have a clear idea how states are supposed to pay those costs -- which is probably why most of the states have sued to stop ObamaCare before it can do further harm.
What our nation needs isn't more federal spending but a hard dose of reality. We need to recognize once again that free enterprise is the engine of our economy, and that it cannot succeed if the federal government ignores the clear limits placed on Washington by our Constitution.
Have we learned that lesson yet?
We hope it does not take the eventual insolvency of programs such as Medicare or Social Security before enough Americans realize that out-of-control government spending, taxing and debt carry an awfully high price.