The Urge to Spend Is Out of Control—And Time Is Running Out to Reverse Course

The Urge to Spend Is Out of Control—And Time Is Running Out to Reverse Course

By Dr. Thomas Patterson |

Loma Verde, California is building a $24 million recreation center with a pool. Forest Lakes, Minnesota is getting a $1.5 million golf clubhouse, while San Antonio is purchasing a $15 million theme park.

These may seem frivolous when rampant inflation is threatening, but never mind, they’re all “free,” a synonym for “paid for by the feds.”

America is awash in cash. Hundreds of other communities are enjoying similar goodies. States in no fiscal difficulty whatsoever have been given billions in budget boosts.

Checks for thousands of dollars have gone to citizens not even claiming to be in need. Millions of Americans receive enough government cash that they can now avoid the inconvenience and degradation of work.

These are the outcomes of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion-dollar American Rescue Plan, although the link to COVID may seem obscure to some. But the bigger point is that our governing culture today sees government spending as a positive good, which may be prompted by any excuse or none at all.

This is a continuation of the age-old argument over the role of government. For those who see government as a benign force that can efficiently, by use of its taxing power, address the common welfare and assure equitable outcomes, every dollar transferred from private to public hands is a positive.

Moreover, Big Government clearly increases the power and prestige of government officials. It creates beneficiaries highly likely to vote for those politicians who “cared” enough to send Other Peoples’ Money their way.

Vastly expanded government has also affected the attitudes of Americans toward the role of government in their lives. To an extent unthinkable to earlier generations, Americans now assume the federal government will take responsibility for such matters as healthcare, education, childcare, and aging parents.

The founders of our Constitution would not be pleased. Their original intent was to create a more just and independent society than the autocracies which had plagued mankind for millennia. Regrettably, Americans have blandly looked on while much of their birthright has been stolen.

Much of the recent confiscation of our nation‘s economic output has come under the pretext of COVID spending. But remember that the COVID financial crisis was a self-inflicted wound. The lockdowns were unprecedented and proved ineffective as a pandemic response strategy, but they precipitated a huge expansion of government power.

America has so far spent $6.4 trillion in COVID relief bills. The $1.9 trillion in the 2021 American Rescue Plan alone was enough to buy every COVID vaccine, ventilator, and hospital in existence. But much of the money went to beyond-obvious pork and to support Democratic political constituencies.

New York, among others, is reportedly sitting on $12.7 billion in unneeded COVID funds that they hope will revert to “unassigned” dollars. The money was pushed out so carelessly that the Labor Department IG estimates $163 billion of the $872 billion in COVID unemployment funds were dissipated in fraud.

The consequences of all this unnecessary spending are predictable and enormous. In 2009, then-President Obama warned against continuing deficits when the debt had doubled from $5 trillion to $10 trillion under his predecessor.

It was $20 trillion by the time he left office, stands at $30 trillion today, and will reach $45 trillion by 2032 according to Biden’s own budget projections.

But trifles like stifling debt and lack of need can’t suppress the political urge to spend. With COVID receding and no extraordinary expenses pending, Joe Biden’s new budget proposal rings in at $5.8 trillion, fully 31% higher than in 2019.

Federal revenues rose 18% in 2021, then 26% this year, but it’s not enough. Biden‘s $2 trillion projected deficit means the debt will have climbed $7 trillion in just the last three years. Multi-trillion-dollar deficits have effectively been normalized.

It could be worse. We narrowly escaped passage of the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better boondoggle. Yet now Biden has the gall to demand $30 billion more for COVID expenses when at least $500 billion from the last COVID relief bill is still unspent.

The mindless, immoral imperative to spend more knows no bounds. Time is running out to reverse course. When will we come to our senses?

Arizona Should Conduct an Audit on Mesa Public Schools’ Hidden Spending

Arizona Should Conduct an Audit on Mesa Public Schools’ Hidden Spending

By the Arizona Free Enterprise Club |

For years now, we’ve heard the same old talking points from the left when it comes to our state’s schools. It always goes a little something like this:

    • Education is underfunded in Arizona…
    • Teachers aren’t paid enough…
    • We need to raise taxes to pay our teachers more…

Do these lines sound familiar? They should. Anytime a new proposition is rolled out to voters, teachers’ unions and other liberals push this same narrative. We heard it when they campaigned for Prop 208 a couple years ago. And despite the fact that the Arizona Supreme Court struck down Prop 208 because Arizona is already funding schools at historic levels, we continue to hear it from Red4Ed and others as they target the state’s $1.8 billion tax cuts.

That’s what makes the latest news out of Mesa Public Schools (MPS) even more outrageous.

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Mesa Public Schools: No Records Exist for Over $32.3 Million ‘COVID’ Expenditures

Mesa Public Schools: No Records Exist for Over $32.3 Million ‘COVID’ Expenditures

By Corinne Murdock |

Mesa Public Schools (MPS) won’t explain where over $32.3 million of their federal emergency funds slated for COVID-related expenditures went. The lack of transparency calls into question the amount of funds funneled into undisclosed areas potentially unrelated to education while teachers struggle for increased salaries and school supply funding. 

AZ Free News inquired with MPS about their COVID-19 expenditures after readers requested we look into reports that teachers were asking parents to donate basic supplies like paper because they were running out — and apparently their district wouldn’t cover it. In its annual financial report submitted last October, MPS reported nearly $40 million remaining in their maintenance and operation funds

That led AZ Free News to look into MPS expenditures. The millions we inquired about came from their latest public Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) report. Specifically, we inquired about what was behind the repeated listings of “indirect costs,” “other,” and “etc” expenditures that MPS allocated millions of dollars toward. AZ Free News focused on these expenditures:

  • Page 8: the “other (includes indirect costs)” totaling over $16 million
  • Page 9: the “etc” expenditures under PPE totaling nearly $1.7 million
  • Page 9: the “other” and “indirect costs” together totaling over $554,000
  • Page 10: the “COVID relief positions” totaling over $122,000
  • Page 10: the “indirect costs” totaling nearly $4.3 million
  • Page 12: the “indirect costs” totaling over $9.6 million

With each public records request, MPS officials would refer us back to the public ESSER report. After several follow-ups, MPS General Counsel Kacey King informed AZ Free News that MPS could not fulfill the request further because explanation of those additional expenditures in full would require MPS to “create records.” Under Arizona law, government entities aren’t required to create records that they don’t have. 

In all, Arizona has received over $4 billion in ESSER funding. MPS received some of the largest bulk of that funding, coming in second for most ESSER funds received: around $229.2 million, coming in second only to Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Congress Can’t Use COVID Relief To Stop State Tax Cuts

Congress Can’t Use COVID Relief To Stop State Tax Cuts

By the Goldwater Institute |

With states still feeling the economic damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Joe Biden signed the “American Rescue Plan Act” to give states billions of federal dollars to help them recover. But there’s a catch: The Act effectively prohibits states that take the money from cutting taxes through 2024. That’s unconstitutional—and the Goldwater Institute is joining one legal challenge to it.

Congress can sometimes put conditions on grants to states, but it can’t take advantage of an emergency to coerce states into giving up control of such an important issue of state policy, and it can’t impose a condition on a grant that has nothing to do with the grant’s purpose. That’s why many state attorneys general have filed federal lawsuits challenging this “Tax Mandate”—and it’s why the Goldwater Institute has filed a brief supporting the state of Ohio’s challenge.

THE TAX MANDATE

provision in the Act says that states cannot use federal grant money to “directly or indirectly offset” a loss of revenue resulting from a tax cut enacted between March 2021 and the end of 2024. If they do, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury will take the federal money back, up to the amount of revenue the state lost. That appears to mean that states that cut taxes between now and 2024 will have to pay back some or all their grant money.

The Tax Mandate’s defenders say this is just to make sure states actually use federal money for COVID relief. But the Tax Mandate doesn’t actually do that. The Act lists four broad categories of things a state can spend federal grant money on. After states spend the money, they have to report how they spent it to the Treasury Secretary. If the Secretary determines that a state spent money on something that doesn’t fall into one of those categories, she can take that money back.

So if a state receives a grant of, say, $5 billion, it has to show that it spent $5 billion on things the Act allows. If some things it reports weren’t appropriate uses of the money, the Secretary can recoup that portion of the grant. That alone ensures that states spend their federal grants for the purposes Congress intended.

The Tax Mandate, on the other hand, does not help ensure that states spend their grant money properly. Instead, it focuses on whether a state indirectly used federal funds to offset revenue lost as a result of tax cuts. That might make sense if the Act were otherwise designed to deny federal money to states that could afford to pay for their own COVID relief (if they put other policy priorities aside). But the Act doesn’t do that.

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