Weekly Opinion Editorial
NO PUBLIC MONEY
by Steve Fair
Public money is defined as money that has been collected by government from citizens, usually through taxation. During a recent TV interview, a two term GOP Oklahoma state legislator, running for re-election, proudly proclaimed he would protect public money. He went on to say that ‘we’(assuming he meant the legislature) funded this program and that program. That would have been a sight to below- 149 legislators pulling out their personal checkbooks to fund state government. That, of course, is absurd and preposterous, but sadly most voters don’t see the error in his statement. Three observations:
First, there is no public money. Government doesn’t generate any money, it consumes. The private sector generates money. The so-called public money is taxpayer money. It doesn’t cease to belong to the taxpayer once the government collects it. It is still taxpayer money. It isn’t laundered like drug money and can be used however government is inclined. When naïve, inexperienced, airheaded elected officials arrogantly proclaim they are funding anything, they expose their stupidity. Legislators don’t fund anything- taxpayers fund everything.
The late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “The state has no source of money, other than the money people earn themselves. If the state wishes to spend more, it can only do so by borrowing your savings, or by taxing you more. And it’s no good thinking that someone else will pay. That someone else is you. There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money.”
Second, taxpayers should pay attention to how their money is being spent. The majority of taxpayers view their taxes as a necessary evil. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said, “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” The problem is most taxpayers don’t watch how their money is spent after it has been collected. The money doesn’t stop being their money once the government has collected it. It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to make sure that money is being spent in a proper manner. The reason there is so much government waste, fraud and corruption is because taxpayers take so little equity in their money. If more citizens required elected officials, at all levels, to provide a detailed accounting of where their money was being spent, perhaps America’s out of control government spending could be halted.
Third, no publicly funded entity is ‘entitled’ to taxpayer money- they should earn it. When secondary education, public employees, or state agencies haughtily declare they are entitled to ‘public’ money, without accountability, they are poking their finger in the taxpayer’s eye. Oklahoma should require zero based budgeting, a system that requires that every penny appropriated be justified. The current system of just bumping up last year’s allocation doesn’t identified waste, and rewards agencies that cheat.
No doubt the legislator knows where the government gets their revenue. No doubt he knows he did not personally fund anything, but words and terminology matter. The mindset tax dollars cease to be ours once collected flies in the face of self-government. Anyone who believes otherwise is a socialist. Pay attention to how your money is being spent.