Spending Windfalls

February 3, 2009 at 5:06 pm (Politics) (, , )

Living in (and working for) one of the states that’s currently praying for that bailout money to arrive soon, I’ve been listening to some of the thoughts on how to spend that money.  Sadly, everybody has ideas… and they all seem to be horribly, horribly bad ones.

Let’s say that you’re a private citizen, drowning in credit card debt and mortgages.  You get a one-time windfall when your distant Aunt Eloise passes on and leaves you her million-dollar collection of stamps (work with me here.)  What do you do when you sell the collection and pocket the cash?

Do you go out on a spending spree with that million, blowing it all on new toys you won’t be able to afford to keep up?  Or do you spend it on getting rid of your outstanding debts, keeping whatever you have left for maintenance and (possibly) a few large purchases?

If you’re at all responsible, you do the latter.  Which is exactly why I’m tearing my hair out here listening to people’s plans for what to do with the funds.

You’re not going to have this in a few years.  You shouldn’t be using this money to build a massive rail network you won’t be able to support.  Instead, you should use it to BALANCE YOUR BUDGET.  Balance it in ways that make jobs, yes.  Use it to support the failing infrastructure you’ve already got.  Use it to hire workers to perform state services, and make sure your 911 centers are properly staffed.  Don’t blow the money on purchases that won’t pay for themselves – because you’re not going to have this forever.  You’re going to need to spend it in ways that bring in additional funds, and that are sustainable.  You’re going to need to spend it tiding yourselves over while you tighten your belts, weaning yourselves off the spend-spend-spend model that you’ve gotten used to.

Because if you don’t, you’re going to be in the same place in another two years, and that time the Messiah might not be willing – or able – to pay your way back into pork heaven.

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