Federalizing Everything?

Pittsburgh expects and laments that it will receive only a one-third Federal government reimbursement of the cost of snow removal incurred during the recent siege of winter weather.

One must ask. What is the purpose of municipal government? Keeping the streets open and usable for residents would certainly seem to be one of local government’s core functions, whether performed by City employees or contracted out to private service providers. But these days, it appears both the Feds and the local government have come to the belief that this function is partly the responsibility of the Federal government.

Not too surprising in view of the encroachment of the Federal government into every aspect of our existence. One would hope the Federal government would be as concerned about its core functions such as protecting and defending our borders from illegal immigration. But amazingly, that is now controversial. What is not shocking is that local officials are always willing to get in line for "free" money.

And that is the insidious part of the equation. When local and state officials begin to depend on Federal dollars to pay for increasing number of services and for reimbursement of unforeseen expenditures, it induces them to spend more than they otherwise would on items not yet subsidized. So a dangerous unintended consequence of Federal largesse is the diminution of fiscal responsibility in local governments. This, in turn, leads to more dependence and more loss of local responsibility. Not what the Founders envisioned nor a path designed to maintaining the liberty most Americans say they want and expect.

Pittsburgh’s Spending Dilemma

The Pittsburgh Public Works Department claims it does not have enough manpower and equipment to deal with the snow problem and cannot hire more people because of spending constraints. This in a city that was looking to tax college tuition in order to make payments on massively underfunded pensions and that has enormous bond debt obligations and that has no problem finding money to make very generous longevity pay for public safety employees.

One of the City’s primary responsibilities is to maintain streets and make it possible for people to get around to work, doctors and shopping. Yet because of spendthrift, poor management policies for years it now finds that it cannot do what the citizens need. Maybe the citizens should long ago have demanded a bit more responsibility in fiscal matters.

One wonders if they are beginning to get it.