The following is an op-ed I wrote that was published in the Daily Herald today:

It seems that for Utah’s governors, “fiscal conservatism” is little more than a campaign sound byte to be discarded upon assuming office. Governor Herbert, it would appear, is not off to a very good start.

During his remarks after being sworn in, Herbert affirmed that he would be a fiscal conservative. Only a few short weeks later, though, he went ahead and approved a second round of the Home Run Program, which uses federal stimulus money to incentivize people to buy new homes. So much for fiscal conservatism—distorting the market through government incentives is hardly what one does to accurately merit the label.

To make matters worse, Herbert used an economically fallacious phrase in justifying his decision. A recent Salt Lake Tribune article states that Governor Herbert is predicting that the stimulus program “could save or create 9,000 jobs in Utah”. “Save or create”? Who’s he kidding?

It just so happens that President Obama has used the same exact phrase when trying to solicit support for his “economic recovery package”. While the economic promises of President Obama and Governor Herbert are easily challenged when looking at job creation data, the data for how many jobs are being saved conveniently does not—and cannot—exist. Job creation is something that is easily quantifiable, but determining how many jobs were “saved” is a magician’s act that only sleight of hand and deceitful trickery can conjure up.

But maybe this isn’t about saving and creating jobs. Perhaps it’s about benefiting a few people at the public’s expense. (A shocking accusation when considering the combination of government and large sums of money, I know.)

The same Tribune article notes that the governor received $25,000 from the Utah Association of Realtors last month (where Herbert used to be the president), and $30,000 from the biggest construction-supply company in the state. In light of such information, it’s little surprise that Herbert has abandoned his alleged frugality with our money in favor of inflating Utah’s housing market.

The Governor may or may not be actually saving certain jobs, but if he is, he’s helping out his former colleagues and friends. I believe the governor should pay attention to a few of the valid arguments true fiscal conservatives have been making.

First, the money has to come from somewhere. Through the force of government, we are all being burdened with debt so that businesses who have the Governor’s attention can make a profit. Second, government is not and never has been a wise money manager. Helping builders clear inventory does not make for good government, to say nothing of fiscal conservatism.

Finally, the reality few will admit is that spending is what created our current problems. Contrary to popular belief, more spending is not a remedy. The inflationary policies of the federal government, enabled by the Federal Reserve, have increased America’s use of its already maxed-out credit card. Repeating the mistakes of the past will not make for a better future. Furthermore, Utah’s acceptance and use of federal funds further increases our dependency upon and regulation by the federal government.

The Home Run Program will perhaps create some jobs, and may even save a few—but at what expense? Utah’s economy would be better served by sending the federal stimulus money back to Washington, rather than into the balance sheets of a few well-connected businesses. If Governor Herbert dared to take such action (as a real fiscal conservative would), perhaps he might save his own job.


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