Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Money Isn't Free

Repeat after me: Bailout and stimulus money is not free. It seems like every day we hear about another group that realizes that the government doesn't just hand out billions of dollars without any expectations in return. Nor should they, I might add. I'm not really sure what these executives were expecting. When you accept so much money from the government, of course it's going to expect something from you in return. That's just how the world works. So now banks are trying to pay back their bailout money as quickly as possible so they aren't subject to the responsibilities that come with taking all that cash. You'd think the message would have spread. But now. We're also seeing it in how states are using their education money.

Apparently Secretary Duncan has had to issue some pretty stern warnings to states that they'd better use their education money on, well, education. And those that don't or don't use the money in a way that conforms to the goals of the Obama administration are at risk of not getting any more stimulus money for education.

Naturally, governors are shocked - shocked! - that this would be the case. But let's get real. The government doesn't (and shouldn't) just give away money and hope for the best. There have to be some measures in place to ensure that the money is used appropriately. That means that the government needs to set some standards. Whether we agree with those standards once they're set is, of course, open for debate (NCLB comes to mind), but it's irrational to argue with the notion that when the government pays the bill, the government gets to call the tune.

That's one of the big arguments for Barry Goldwater style conservativism. I see it more as a reminder for the buyer to beware. No one gives money away for free. Make sure that what you're giving for the money is worth it.

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