The Gravy Train Leading ‘Under’employed Graduates to Government ‘Work’

My dad has been waxing nostalgic lately, sending me old pictures from when I was growing up. One was of us being overrun by newborn puppies. Watching them stumble about with their eyes closed was amusing. They knew where to go though, when it was feeding time.

A similar phenomenon materializes when local politicians get a chunk of change from Uncle Sam, except their eyes are wide-open. Add in enthusiastic support for an impending billion dollar bond proposal, and their tongues and tails are in full wag!

The San Antonio city council is currently deliberating how to spend $88 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). It’s ostensibly earmarked to “determine what impact the coronavirus pandemic had on San Antonio in areas ranging from small business to mental health.”

There’s no way to ever know that though, because the fallout wasn’t totally due to the virus. What they will find is the destruction that followed in the wake of their lockdowns.

Businesses were ordered closed, some never reopened, and people (especially those with families to support) stressed out over the jobs they lost. Where’s the mystery here?

Ahh but wait; the city has received dozens of “unsolicited requests from groups and agencies seeking” 4-times what Uncle Sam has bestowed upon us. Wiper blades are required to clean the computer screen of the drooling over who will get what.

One councilwoman struck an opportunistic tone, claiming the pandemic gave us the chance “to improve our communities.”

If the pandemic gave us any such thing, it was to find ways to navigate this new virus that was spreading amongst us. And we were starting to do that: wiping counters and doorknobs, having more hand sanitizer available, using bandanas and handkerchiefs as masks, etc.

Whether out of fear of the virus, fear of poor emergency planning, or fear of being seen as not “doing something,” authoritarians snuffed out citizens’ efforts. They brought the bureaucratic hammer down instead.

We all remember the hysteria, grocery shortages, and strife that ensued.

Given Uncle Sam’s profligate spending habits, it’s not a stretch to say they, and their special-interest and academic cronies, saw this “opportunity” coming. That may be why they fell in line with state and federal officials rather than stand with their constituents.

One could be forgiven for thinking that this kind of gravy train is a result of the repercussions of politicians’ continually pumping more taxpayer funds into higher education: a greater number of college graduates possessing degrees of diminished value.

When kids who might otherwise have explored vocational careers, are instead lured to a university by artificially easy loan terms, you’ll see a shortage of labor in the former, and a surplus in the latter.

It’s leading some deflated alumni to push for unionization of their respective workplaces. That will tend to suppress economic dynamism, and therefore dampen prosperity. Or worse: it could lead them to ‘careers’ in lobbying that depend on just this sort of government largesse.

Never let it be said that government can’t create jobs.

Concerns have been aired by some officials about making sure these ARPA funds are used for their intended purpose, and avoiding commitments that would put pressure on future city budgets. Both are beside the point though.

When you have another councilwoman that believes the arts are “an economic driver,” or that it’s possible for the public sector to spend “a bucket of money… efficiently and effectively” like the private sector, as one councilman does, there’s a disconnect.

Moreover, when they feel the aforementioned opportunities “to improve” existed because they had “previously been underfunded,” that necessarily means they feel citizens have been undertaxed. Given their reaction to recent property tax appraisals, San Antonians probably disagree.

If the council gets their $1.2 billion gusher of bond debt, and are allowed to keep pilfering homeowners via property taxes, momma dogs’ nursing occasions will look like a day at the beach.

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Christopher E. Baecker

Christopher E. Baecker teaches economics at Northwest Vista College, is the policy director and editor at InfuseSA, and is a board member for the Institute for Objective Policy Assessment. He can be reached via email or Facebook.

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