A democrat legislator recently chided those governors not embracing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.  The gist of her argument was that most of the expense would be borne by the federal government anyway.  Where does this cretin think federal funds come from? 

Just as troubling to me is the general acceptance of state agencies helping private businesses garner federal funds.  We have seen this with the provider tax here in Oklahoma where private hospitals pay a 1% tax to have it returned to them 3 fold.  These outfits are hoping you won’t connect the dots between the “tax” they pay on one hand and the loot they grab from your pocket with their other hand.  

This crony corporate welfare enabled by state legislation and agencies is what I like to call “favors we can live without.”  Rex Smitherman in today’s “Daily Oklahoman” tells us the story of Cyrus Zegrati, a microbiologist who Mr. Smitherman mentors on the fine art of pick-pocketing the taxpayers.  Mr. Smitherman’s organization, i2E, is funded in part by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), one of whose goals is “to boost the state’s share of SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) grants.”  

Let’s summarize.  Mr. Smitherman, CEO of a “nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies,” is the recipient of your wages and mine through a state agency (OCAST), and his job is to help people like Mr. Zegrati find his way in to your wallet through NIH (National Institutes of Health) and SBIR grants. 

How is this any different from the crony capitalism so vilified on the federal level, the bailouts of the banksters, Solyndra and many others?  Isn’t this moral hazard, that situation where one is set up to profit from placing other’s money at risk?  

Entrepreneurs risk private capital for gain.  Successful ones are those able to predict future demand for services or products that help their fellow man in some way.  Those seeking and obtaining public, taxpayer money for their private gain are another type of individual altogether, rightly referred to as thieves, as they are truly the recipients of stolen property.  That they have harnessed some “acceptable” means of extracting what is in our wallets really makes no difference.  That they have an intermediary do their dirty “wet” work, still results in our being robbed of resources we might have more pressing uses for in our own households. 

Mr. Zegrati’s idea may have been appealing enough in the private sector to gain the confidence of private investors, but sadly, we will never know.  If his “company” is successful, he will actually be an example of someone “who didn’t build his company.”  Forcibly redirecting private money for public use results in mal-investment and allows bad and unprofitable schemes to proliferate, as the ruin of failure is shouldered by the taxpayers not the visionary, throwing much of accountability to the wind. 

I wish Mr. Zegrati the best.  I just wish he had pursued his dreams without money taken from the rest of us without our consent.  That our state legislature taxes us to enable this heist at the state and federal level is truly unconscionable.  

G. Keith Smith, M.D.