'To regulate our own pursuits' CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

October 23, 1994|By C. Fraser Smith

Q: Please give us some idea of what government would look like in a Sauerbrey administration.

A: Throughout my campaign, I have used a quote from Thomas Jefferson that to me defines what government is all about.

"The sum of a good government is a government that restrains men from injuring one another but leaves us otherwise free to regulate our own pursuits in industry and self-improvement and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread that it has earned."

It was that freedom from government that allowed people to keep more of the fruits of their labor, that allowed savings and investments and expansion, the rapid expansion of the private sector economy that is the basis of the free enterprise system.

Over the last 50 years as government has become larger and taxed more heavily and taken away from people the ability to do those things, it has taken away incentives. If you tax people heavily enough, you get more people thinking that it's not worth working that extra day, taking that extra risk because there's not clear gain at the end of the day of work. If we're putting money into infrastructure, we're creating something that has economic payback.

But as we put more and more money into transfer payments for our welfare system to make people non-productive, you get very little return for that expenditure. We have seen a dramatic shifting away from the things that helped to grow the economy into things that have no real return.

Q: You've said there are a lot of government programs that people don't want, can't afford, and probably will never use. Could you elaborate on what you mean by that?

A: I guess one of the key concerns is about welfare, the amount of money that is going into the whole supporting of the welfare state.

I went into my grocery store in Jacksonville [a community in north central Baltimore County] two weeks ago, I was very surprised to see how vehemently the clerks were addressing this. But they stand on their feet all day long working and you know in what they consider to be their effort to support their families and have people coming in with the MD independence card buying shrimp and buying stuff they feel they can't afford themselves.

Q: You sense resentment of these programs?

A: Well, I think people that are working hard are very resentful of a growing number of people who are able-bodied who aren't working. And that number of people is growing generationally.

I don't think anybody, in any way begrudges the use of their dollars for a safety net for people who can't help themselves. I was talking about the developmentally disabled, and somebody said to me, "Well, I found your bleeding heart": people who are blind who are mentally retarded, mentally ill, people who cannot care for themselves. . . .

Q: What's your sense of the degree or the rate of ineligibility for welfare? How big a problem?

A: I don't know what the number is, but I look at the Department of Fiscal Services legislative auditor's report, and I think the last report I believe had 60,000 that they questioned.

I tried to address that the last two years with a bill to have laser fingerprinting. If our experience is anything like what they found in California with that system. I think we determined it was about a $10 million savings to us if we could eliminate people who were applying for welfare under multiple Social Security numbers or identifications.

But that's not the big ticket; the big ticket is that it's too easy to get on and stay on welfare for an extended period of time. If you look at Medicaid, the explosion of the Medicaid rolls from 1989 to today, the Medicaid rolls are up by 150,000.

Q: Isn't a lot of that recession-driven? Where people fall down below to such a low income level so that they're eligible?

A: Some of it is recession-driven. And some of it is the change in the federal eligibility income standard which has brought more children onto the rolls. But that's very small, if I remember correctly, only about 20,000.

And the question is, are the conditions of the state so much worse today than they were four years ago, or do we have a problem with getting people onto welfare that we don't get back off again?

Q: Do you have a proposal for welfare reform?

A: The first thing is for a woman to come onto welfare, she should have to identify the paternity of the child. With DNA testing, today you can establish paternity. Every effort has got to be made to find the father and make him support that child.

The second thing is that there should be a time limitation. A woman should be given two years, and some assistance in trying to get a job, and if at the end of two years, cannot get a job then she would lose her cash payments. . . .

Q: You sort of threw your hands up in the air when you said two years. What would you do then?

A: I would continue food stamps and Medicaid, but I would stop the cash payments. Other states are doing it.

Q: You would continue food stamps and medical coverage?

A: Yeah.

Q: For six months, a year?

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