Editorial: Can they really control spending?

Three or more years into the Great Recession, the consensus seems to be that government must control its spending. But there’s no widespread evidence of that happening and the public can’t help but be suspicious that nobody is trying all that hard to stop it.

A lot of the nice -- but unnecessary in an emergency -- spending originates with the federal government and is doled out through the states to local communities which otherwise would never undertake such projects.

We don’t blame local officials for seeking outside money, but if the federal government really wants to control spending, much of this has to stop.

Just by reading the newspaper one gets a hint of what’s still going on. Somebody just provided $278,000 to enhance salmon habitat at Cornet Bay. The state wants people to take pictures of high tides this month, a program that must have cost a lot to implement and publicize. The county is seeking a federal grant of $500,000 to repair homes owned by poor people. If we don’t get it, someone else will. Four lucky Island County commuters each month will win $50 by showing they’re not driving alone to work anymore.

On the regulation side, an important project in Oak Harbor, the City Beach outfall pipe replacement, is in trouble because artifacts, possibly Native American, were found. This problem has caused the state to walk away from multi-million dollars in the past. Maybe the regulations should be loosened up.

Meanwhile, Oak Harbor is wondering if it should spend $80,000 of its own money on public art, as its ordinance requires. The Conservation District is offering to help farmers restore wildlife habit and otherwise use better farming methods.

The list is literally endless over the years, and that’s for one little county surrounded by Puget Sound. They’re all good things, which is how the ideas get funded. But can we afford them all?

Frankly, it might be good that the feds are still spreading money around. But if Congress is committed to keeping its word on spending control it’s going to have to stop hundreds, perhaps thousands, of programs aimed at the local level. Most likely, nobody is seriously looking at where to cut spending and they’re just hoping to muddle through until the next election. Trouble is, we’re about out of muddling time.

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