The Thrilling Feeling of Spending Other People’s Money

There’s nothing quite like using someone else’s credit card. No wonder the Washington Post headlined a front-page article today: “Stimulus Bill Sends Thrill Through Region.” It’s enough to give a local pol or bureaucrat the chills! Just think of the fun of wasting cash provided by people around the country for local boondoggles that your own taxpayers would never pay for!

Reports the Post:

As Congress prepares legislation to pump more than $800 billion into the economy, governments in the Washington region are lining up for their share: dollars that could mobilize stalled projects to mend water mains, repave roads and rebuild schools, as well as plug other budgetary holes.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said yesterday that a stimulus bill pending on Capitol Hill would bring the state as much as $2.9 billion over 27 months for Medicaid, education programs, worker training and “fiscal stabilization” and an additional $1 billion for transit, school construction and clean-water projects.

Virginia officials said the state could be eligible for as much as $800 million for highway projects alone.

“There are many, many projects that are ready to go as soon as we know the criteria and how much money we’re getting,” said Gordon Hickey, a spokesman for Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D).

The stimulus plan is viewed in the two states and the District as something of a bailout. But it remains unclear how much money local governments will get and how many items on their wish lists will be funded, given the vagaries of funding formulas and the evolving nature of the legislation.

Governors and members of Congress are being deluged with inquiries and wish lists from local governments, which see the American Reinvestment and Recovery Plan as deliverance from a fiscal nightmare.

I live in Virginia.  Instead of taking my money and giving it away to local politicians in, say, California and Colorado, how about letting me keep it and fight with my own elected officials about how much they get to seize?  Me thinks they would be a lot more careful since I can vote against them in the next election.

Which is precisely the point of the expensive boondoggle moving through Congress.  And why the mammoth spending bill sends a “thrill” through not just the Washington, D.C. region, but through city halls, county commission buildings, and gubernatorial mansions across the country.