HARRISBURG – We’re weeks out from the approval of the massive $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill and a lot of the details are still being unpacked.
Although at this point, we should probably substitute “strings” for the word “details” in the previous sentence – because accepting that money sure does seem to come with a bunch of conditions.
Because the bill put money in the hands of the people, a lot of this country seems to be overlooking the implications of all of this down the road.
It’s understandable, really. If someone is having a hard time and they get handed some money to help, that’s their immediate focus. It makes sense.
Representative Jess Topper talked with Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen during the local-live morning radio show, First News, on NEWS TALK 1037FM.
“We’re talking about monopoly money here at this point,” Topper said. “We’ve gotten to that cliff where we are setting ourselves up for future disasters. I do think it’s fear based. Let’s pocket all of this monopoly money coming from the federal government. It’s been well publicized that there were no political leaders that missed any paychecks. I don’t need an extra $1400 coming from the federal government. It’s just not right.”
Why would the federal government hand out money willy nilly like this?
“I liken it to an arsonist that is a fireman,” Topper explained. “That’s what this feels like. They created a crisis and now they’re coming in to say they’re going to rescue us from this crisis. I can’t believe it, but a lot of people seem to be embracing it.”
Add to that the money that each state is getting from this stimulus bill and it feels like a whole lot of cups are running over.
Pennsylvania was one of the big winners – we’re on par with Illinois in terms of what we got, which is estimated at more than $13 billion for state and local governments.
So, we shouldn’t have to raise taxes, right?
Remember those strings we mentioned? Yeah, this is where they come in.
In order to get the money, the states have to agree to not lower taxes.
Apparently state attorneys are looking into the difference between tax credits and tax cuts, so there may be some wiggle room if the state can’t lower taxes, it may be able to take advantage of some tax credits.
But where this money goes is critically important at this juncture.
“Any influx of money we get needs to go to one-time fixes,” Topper suggested.
The state should look at fixing roads, bridges, or water and sewer in local municipalities – things that will last for years.
“If we put money into recurring costs, that’s where we set ourselves up for future tax increases and we cannot do that,” Topper warned.
The future after this massive windfall is really unclear.
“What this money is setting us up for is problems in the future and not just at the state level,” Topper said. “If people think we can just keep printing money like this and it won’t affect the value of the dollar, they simply don’t know economics. We have to be looking at the future for our kids and grand kids and what kind of an economic system they’re going to have. If we continue down this road it’s not going to be sustainable. I think we all understand that. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not are two different things.”
Pensions are another huge issue here. It’s constitutionally mandated that pensions are paid, but here we go with the strings again – the stimulus money can’t be used to pay pensions.
Is this even real life anymore?
Jansen wondered, “Doesn’t that lend itself to doing some of the bad thigs that you don’t want to see where they add jobs and they add things that have to be perpetually paid for?”
If the money is used to create new jobs, where will the money come to pay those jobs down the road?
“We’re the ones that are going to have to make that determination,” Topper said. “Even if it can’t go to pensions, we’re going to have to find a way to make sure it also doesn’t go to things that are going to be caught up and recurring in salaries and benefits and new programs. We’re just going to have to fight that tooth and nail and make sure that doesn’t happen.”
As Triumph said in the 80s: Fight the Good Fight. Never has that been more appropriate than now.