Hoffman: Feds worse than ‘lecherous, drunken,’ panhandling uncle

Idaho Freedom Foundation Executive Director Wayne Hoffman says state policymakers “continue to suck up as much federal money as they can, even when our better judgment tells us we are on a dangerous course.”

In an op-ed in Monday’s Twin Falls Times-News, Hoffman notes that the share of state appropriations covered by the federal government has risen from 32 percent to 36 percent in a decade.

But, Hoffman writes, neither the January spending cuts under the sequester nor the current government shutdown “seems to be moving Idaho officials to consider the ramifications of our cuddly relationship with the wayward national government.”

Hoffman likens the feds to a excessively sexually indulgent and inebriated roadside panhandler. Only worse. (UPDATED at 1:30 p.m. with Hoffman reply below.)

“The state of Idaho is too reliant on the federal government and its money,” writes Hoffman. “Take a moment to re-read what I just wrote: It’s almost as if I just said, ‘The state of Idaho is too reliant on your lecherous, drunken uncle who is standing on the roadside with a Sharpie and a rectangle of cardboard.’ Yes, we, here in Idaho depend on someone equally undependable and unpredictable, and not nearly as loveable or credible: Uncle Sam.”


I may have missed this as our national divisions have grown more deep, but I never thought of Uncle Sam as less loveable or credible than a lust-driven drunk.

The United States government may be loathsome to Mr. Hoffman, my former colleague at the Statesman, but for all its recent failures it doesn’t appear most Americans are with him.

A Gallup poll last week found that just 8 percent of Americans said the partial government shutdown is “not a problem at all.”

Among the 1,021 adults polled nationwide, 21 percent called the shutdown a “crisis,” 49 percent a “major problem,” and 18 percent a “minor problem.” Three percent were “unsure.”

Yes, polls show the shutdown has worsened an already awful job-approval rating for Congress. Disapproval ratings that were in the mid-70s during summer have risen to 81 percent and 87 percent in the two most recent polls.

President Obama’s numbers are better, but certainly not good. His disapproval number bounced between 44 percent and 54 percent in summer. In the most recent Fox Poll last week, 49 percent disapproved of the job Obama is doing, while 45 percent approved.

The inability of Congress and the president to meet the fundamental obligations of governance is disturbing, infuriating and consequential. But I’m not convinced Americans are ready to shun the greatest experiment in self-governance in history as if it’s a sodden pervert.

Here’s Hoffman’s reply, which I received Monday afternoon, with the subject line ‘oh come on’:

You’re putting words in my mouth, my friend. I never said anything about “abandoning” the American experiment. And poll you cite validates the point of my commentary–that the Legislature and the governor are too dependent on Washington D.C.: The poll shows 70 percent of Americans think the government shutdown is either a “major problem” or “a crisis.” Given that’s the case, I would imagine that the public would want the state government to move proactively. Shouldn’t the Legislature and the governor, with all of the posturing about an overreaching federal government, actually do something about it, maybe examine our level of reliance on the federal government?

And Dan, you and others in the media wrote about the governor’s pre-sequester planning, but no one wrote about how our reliance on the federal buck has increased, not decreased over the last 10 years. That’s quite clearly the point of the commentary, which I wholeheartedly stand behind.
I don’t find the federal government “loathsome.” I find what the federal government IS DOING, often in conjunction with the states, to limit rights and destroy our freedoms, to be loathsome. The federal government was supremely designed, but the design has since been ignored, allowing all of us, dependent on the federal government, to be the victims of the level of ineptitude we find today in Washington, D.C.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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