Peruse the news for not a very long time and you will inevitably stumble upon one or more of the following lines:
“The project will be 80% paid for by a federal grant.”
“FEMA has pledged to help rebuild the community.”
“The governor plans to ask for federal funds to pay for the new program”.
Or this one, taken from the web site for the Indianapolis Bus Rapid Transit boondoggle:
“Construction of the Red Line is being funded primarily through a $75 million federal Small Starts grant. Additional federal resources are being provided through a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant already in place.” (emphases mine)
These claims, and all other like them, work from the same basic premise: Federal funds are being used to offset local funds. The federal funds are presented as free, so what would have cost $100 million now “only” costs $20 million. It’s as if the federal government is a distant rich uncle who just writes checks from a large mountain of cash, saving the locals from horrible bills.
The reality is different. Yes, the federal government does have a large mountain of cash, but that cash comes from you and me in the form of taxes. In fact, because of our insane levels of debt and ongoing deficit spending, the cash comes from you, me, our children, our grandchildren, and likely their children and grandchildren. What is presented as free is anything but.
Without delving into the argument of whether the good citizens of Alaska should be forced to pay for Indy’s bus system, what would happen if the example paragraph above was rewritten as follows:
“Construction of the Red Line is being funded primarily through a $75 million of taxpayer-funded ‘Small Starts’ grant. Additional taxpayer resources are being provided through the taxpayer-provided Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant already in place.”
It reads a bit differently, doesn’t it? Would it make a difference? Maybe, maybe not. Probably not at first. But over time, as people look at everything that is being paid for by the federal government taxpayers, some will question why? Why are we paying for a bus system few will use? Or a new convention center? Or an arts center? Or surplus cheese? Or a glow-in-the-dark marijuana joint on a billboard?
Because proponents of massive government work in the media, don’t expect to see this anytime soon. But you, dear reader, can train your mind. When you see “federal program”, replace with “taxpayer” and see how you feel about paying for the program in question. You will find yourself questioning a great deal of that is being done for “free”.
There’s no free treat under there