The Worst Way to Spend Taxpayer Money

NBC News anchor Brian Williams recently admitted that he lied about an incident in Iraq. His punishment: a six-month suspension with no pay.

In San Jose, three top-level city managers were recently shown the door after dysfunction overtook the office. Their punishment: six months pay.

Maybe we should have simply suspended them.

The anger expressed by San Jose Inside commenters regarding the city payouts is representative of the public at large. A substantial segment of the population doesn’t believe taxpayer money is being used effectively; excessive payouts simply reinforce that idea.

In any large institution, government or otherwise, there will be some waste, fraud and abuse. Most of government works well and government employees often take on extra tasks simply to ensure service is provided to the electorate. These stories are not well chronicled by the media, but they are highlighted when individuals are recognized by their jurisdictions for going above and beyond the call of duty. Awards usually consist of a plaque and picture with public officials. These workers certainly are not rewarded with a six-month vacation.

To the larger point, taxpayers don’t want to pay for nothing. The old line applies that people will pay for a hand up, but not a handout. Conservatives will rail against people who take welfare, and yet when one points to government subsidies for businesses, they will express similar opposition at a lower decibel. It’s incredible how low-income people of color, and especially single mothers, are considered a greater pestilence to our nation’s bottom line than the grinning suit with his hand out.

If government officials are truly concerned about the perception of how they handle taxpayer money, paying people to go away should violate policy—and not become the norm for doing business. We should also have more stories on how individuals in government are making a difference—and not simply those who hold public office.

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