11/25/11 — Practicality: Free money is almost never free

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Practicality: Free money is almost never free

There are some realities in the world that some officeholders never quite seem to grasp.

The first is that government should operate on a budget. Normally sane individuals might see an 18-month same-as-cash or one-time cell phone offer and think, "Sure it's a deal, but can I afford the payments when the deal goes away?" but lose that practicality when faced with a big wad of money from the government.

Which brings us to No. 2 -- advice that most of us learned from our parents or the hard way -- free money is almost never really free.

Don't be fooled, that is exactly the reason there have been so many states facing problems this year, North Carolina included. Sure, the money is nice when it comes but it results in trouble the following year when the programs or positions are there and the money to fund them is long gone.

Bye-bye stimulus money. Hello unfunded mandate or unsustainable salary.

Today, on Black Friday, the world is sucking up bargains and waiting in lines for deals. Temptation to overspend and to overcommit is everywhere. Keeping your head, resisting the lures and sticking to your budget is how you succeed.

That's advice politicians need to heed, too.

There are no free lunches and almost every government handout, no matter how alluring, comes with the consequence of more bureaucracy or a hangover when the money goes away.

As we decide whom we want in Raleigh in the next go-around we need to find people who can resist the lure of the constituent-pleaser free money that ends up costing us way too much in the long run.

North Carolina needs a solid financial future, not one based on promises and temporary fixes. The best candidate for governor or legislator will already know that.

Published in Editorials on November 25, 2011 11:25 AM