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Government spending cuts start at home

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Jim Thompson

By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

I’ll start by saying the local and county government spending here in suburban Atlanta puts that of the governing bodies in Highland County to shame. By that, I mean the sister bodies here where I live can accept more state and federal programs with grants, gifts and graft, so many, that it would even embarrass your mooching brother-in-law. So, just because this column appears in Highland County, about 400 miles from where I live, don’t think I am being uppity on you.  

We have worse problems here.

Yes, government spending is a universal problem found everywhere. Anyone who walks through the door of a city council meeting or county commissioner meeting with a grant, gift or graft (I just like the alliterative sound of that), is welcomed with open arms. If there has ever been an assessment of whether the community needs whatever this filthy lucre is purported to fix, that is an analysis I fail to recall ever seeing.

Interestingly, the cool operators that appear with these proposals in hand always seem to have greased the cognitive skids of the officials before the public meeting has ever started. Such ideas are brought to the open forum with all the gravity of a serious discussion, yet, in your case, when one reads Caitlin’s beautiful, detailed minutes of public meetings, it is obvious the consideration of merit or worthiness has long since been decided, somewhere, some place that the common citizen can never go. It is all about how to get the money – and now.

And isn’t it even more interesting that these carpetbaggers show up, not only with proper forms already filled out (just, sign here after your rubber-stamp vote, officers of the government), they will have in tow their own contractors (not from your locale) to relieve you of the funds and perform the work.  

Yes, you may have to have a sealed bid process, thus delaying the wealth transfer for a few weeks, but often they may provide you with legally prepared bid documents (how convenient, you really didn’t have to do any work) so constructed to favor their recommended contractor to the exclusion of all others. This wasted money isn’t even spent locally.

Now, imagine this going on in every governmental jurisdiction throughout the country.  Yes, the funding may have been approved in Washington, Columbus, or, in my case, Atlanta, but if local governments did not accept these funds without question, this would go a long way toward getting our governmental fiscal houses in order (and yes, I know most states are required to balance their budgets, please don’t write me about this – look at the big picture here and think about lowering your state and local taxes, dear reader).

Just because the money shows up, do you really need a (fill in the blank)?

There is the story of the Cabinet level official (sorry, I don’t remember which one) in Harry Truman’s administration that was so cost conscious that he was worried about the light bulb in his stationery closet which was controlled by an automatic switch connected to the door, much like a refrigerator light.  (Yes, these exist – in one of my positions many years ago, I was ensconced in an office on an ancient “mahogany row” with the same thing.)  

This light bothered this officer. He did not want to waste the federal government’s money – what if the light never went out? Finally, he had his secretary take everything out of the closet so that he could just squeeze in, have her close the door and thus verify the light switch worked as it was designed.

Would that we have a scintilla of such frugalness displayed by our elected officials today.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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