Even though I’m a conservative, to be honest, I tend to ignore a lot of big government spending articles because the numbers are usually just too big to digest. Then I saw how some of those monstrous numbers broke down locally.
I live in South Bend, Ind., best known as home to the University of Notre Dame. The morning after President Biden signed his new COVID-19 “relief” bill into law, news in my local paper broke that our county was about to be granted an obscene amount of money. The sum? $52.7 million — or, about one-third of our entire county budget, all provided courtesy of federal taxpayers.
Now, to put that in perspective, under the CARES Act COVID-19 relief bill signed last year by President Trump, my county got $8.7 million. Frankly, even that amount was a lot for the county to figure out how to spend. Reports the South Bend Tribune:
When county officials found they would be unable to spend all the CARES Act money before the Dec. 31 deadline, the federal government allowed them to use much of that money to pay employee salaries that would have come from the county’s normal budget.
When it was all said and done, that money “allowed the county to end 2020 with more cash on hand than the year before.”
Now imagine how much richer my county will be with a federal boost six times as much as the previous amount. As the county auditor reports, he expects us to be in a “very strong position financially” and that the federal money will be “seriously transformative in terms of county revenues.” No kidding.
It could also be seriously transformative in how much it grows the size and influence of our local government. It’s a tale as old as time: Give the government more money; grow their power; create a bunch more programs; hire more workers; and then, when the money runs out, tell taxpayers higher taxes must follow.
These huge sums of money are not simply federal freebies — they have strings attached. This time, it’s with the Biden administration and its lists of eligible uses, which will be used to shape how we use our taxpayer dollars locally, both redistributing and depriving money to benefit some areas to the detriment of others.
Sure, this money is supposed to get us out of some of the economic problems caused by COVID-19, but who caused these problems in the first place? Politicians and experts mandating lockdowns and killing businesses.
Now they’re spending all our taxpayer dollars and directing the money through a government-run process redirecting money to their favorite causes. Rather than throw buckets of the people’s money right back at them, the proper solution is to open up the economy completely and let people get back to work.
As my congressional representative, Jackie Walorski, wrote in a South Bend Tribune editorial, “This legislation isn’t about Covid, with less than 9 percent going to public health measures, like vaccine distribution. It’s not necessary, either, given that $1 trillion in existing relief funds haven’t been spent.”
These funds are going to be used for the redistribution of wealth and the financial equaling of states, which will especially reward states that have managed money badly and punish states like my own. Walorski points out:
This legislation will bail out fiscally irresponsible state and local governments, forcing Hoosiers to send their tax dollars to states like California. Even worse, Indiana will be penalized for our strong economy, because direct funding to states is based on unemployment, not population as in past relief bills.
Now, consider the stimulus checks. We as a society are getting very used to them. I’ve already received almost $10,000 this year for my family, and if we’re eligible for the latest round, that will be about $13,000 from Uncle Joe.
All in all, it’s starting to feel like I’m receiving a universal basic income, and, with it, a dangerous new cycle of dependence and expectation. Who are you going to vote for — the guy who says it’s time for the stimulus payments to end, or the one who promises you another check?
The reward of federal money could also be why we are still burdened with masks and virus restrictions in Indiana. Despite about a third of states dropping or never having implemented mask mandates, our Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb still hasn’t budged. The way state legislators can force Holcomb to drop COVID-19 rules is by terminating his state of emergency, which has been renewed 12 times and is now going into its second year.
Now more than one-fourth of our state’s House of Representatives are behind the bill, but it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere — even though the author of the bill says he believes he has the votes to pass it. Maddeningly, despite the support to do so, the Republican chairman of the committee, Dan Leonard, won’t move it forward and put an end to the madness.
Why? Federal funding, of course, according to Leah Wilson, a health advocate familiar with the matter and fellow supporter of this bill. Leonard claims if we drop the emergency, we lose a heck of a lot of money. He’s clearly not considering that the state and counties are already sitting on excess piles of money, as noted above. Moreover, Leonard and others don’t seem to realize that there’s also another greater cost: our freedoms.
Money has a way of making us lose focus. It’s great at first, but then you realize what you’ve lost by taking it. As Gerald Ford once put it, “If your government is big enough to give you everything you want, it is big enough to take away from you everything you have.” As we eagerly await the next COVID-19 relief check in our bank accounts, we’d do well to remember those words, and recall that everything, everything, ultimately carries a price.
Amy Drake is a former reporter and political speechwriter. She now works primarily as a stay-at-home mom in Indiana.