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  • Last modified 95 days ago (July 20, 2017)

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Freedom’s biggest threat is ‘free’

The first step in solving a problem is admitting one exists. The biggest problem we face is not government. It’s us.

This is the season in which local units of government prepare budgets for the coming year. By law, every governmental unit must have a public hearing on how it plans to spend our money. Rarely, however, do any of us ever show up.

Monday night’s hearing by the City of Marion was a case in point likely to be repeated throughout the county. All anyone looks at is the mill levy. If it doesn’t increase, they don’t care. Government held the line. But did it?

No one spoke at Monday’s hearing because Marion proposed a slight cut in its tax rate. But that mill levy will generate less than 10 cents of every dollar the city spends.

Hidden in plain view in other lines of the budget are that, in just two years, Marion’s total spending will increase 29.3 percent — nearly 10 times the rate of inflation.

That money isn’t coming from nowhere. It’s coming from surcharges we pay for utilities, taxes we pay every time we buy anything, and money taken out of our paychecks before we even taste the fruit of our labor.

The biggest myth is that local governments get something for nothing by applying for grants. Grant money comes out of our pockets just as surely as property tax money does. It just comes via different elected officials. That we as a nation have become so dependent on grants and aid is a prime reason for such current stalemates as the Legislature’s over school funding and Congress’s over Obamacare.

Like illicit drugs, “free” money becomes addictive. When a plan to control spending comes along, what used to be a free now becomes an essential service that evil Topeka or Washington wants to cut.

Nowhere does this play out more profoundly than with health care. When was the last time you were in any sort of medical facility that didn’t have the newest and shiniest of buildings and furnishings? This is an industry that’s making money faster than it can be printed. And the people left paying for it are us. Even at the newspaper we feel it. We now spend more each year to provide employee health insurance than we do on actually printing our papers.

All this money floating from one government to another, often eventually ending up in the pockets of huge health care companies, comes with another price: the amount we have to pay to support professional grant writers, engineers, lawyers, and lobbyists, like those for Kansas school boards and municipalities, to fight for our position at the trough.

Layer upon layer of costly bureaucracy surrounds an increasingly impenetrable maze of payments to and from various levels of government.

The secret for all of us is to just say no — no to unnecessary projects, no to unnecessary medical procedures, no to the dizzying array of unnecessary incentives special interests demand. We have to realize that, in the end, each of us has our own special interests, which we may need to surrender if we are to have any hope of becoming a society that actually produces things rather than one that mainly tries to game the system.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified July 20, 2017

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