This has been a strange month in which I find myself struggling with two distinct, and opposite, urges.
On the one hand I feel distressed by most of the stimulus plan. I have trouble justifying borrowing money our children and grandchildren will be paying back for 30 years so that we can spend it on items like bike paths. That’s right – bike paths. I have just reviewed a list of proposals/applications for stimulus money, and one of them involves spending your tax dollars on bike paths. Remember, that is going to be borrowed tax dollars, so that ultimately we will pay back around three times the amount spent.
The bike path proposal is just one of many items that in the normal course of events would be borne by the city/county/state that wants the bike path built. Unfortunately, now that the cash spigot has been turned on, there appears to be no shame in asking for funding for anything, including items that were part of an entities regular budget. The attitude seems to be “Heck, if the feds are stupid enough to pay for it, let’s get some.”
My other hand (remember I already used one hand above) does want to dip into “Uncle’s” pocket to help with our current budget crunch in Jackson County. The last three fiscal years we have been forced to cut jobs and programs with no end in sight. We have determinedly continued to make government smaller while hoping the economy would turn around and allow us to restore some of the previous status quo.
And, while we continue to provide essential services, some critical areas are severely under-funded. It is not a question of whether they will become a large problem, but when. I also suspect that many of you want us to “get our share” at the federal trough, since everyone else is getting stimulus money. The argument goes, “If we don’t take it then it will just go to someone else.” That is probably true.
So where do I/we end up in this inner battle? How does one balance the needs of the present against the financial future of our children? Not an easy question. I would appreciate your comments.