Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Goldwater Institute: Governments must tell us how our money is spent.

Trust But Verify

By Byron Schlomach, Ph.D.

"Trust but verify." That's how Ronald Reagan described his philosophy of dealing with the Soviet Union on nuclear arms reductions. It should also be our philosophy when it comes to how government spends our money.

As taxpayers we are required to send our money to various levels of government through a plethora of taxes and we are asked to trust that the money is spent wisely and in our common interest.

There is no doubt that most public servants try to be good stewards of our money. But the amounts available and the fact that taxpayers are distracted with making a living present a mighty temptation. Funds can potentially be spent in ways taxpayers would not approve with little chance that questionable spending will be discovered.

Surely, had Avondale's city fathers known that taxpayers would be looking over their shoulders, they would have been more circumspect in some of their spending. In an investigative news report, they were caught wining and dining wealthy pro sports interests with $100 bottles of wine. Taxpayers footed that bill and another for a visit to a nail salon.

There are many state and local government entities and a lot of potential for officials to lose perspective. It's easy to view government like a business where expensive meals are a common practice. But businesses don't have the power to compel people to buy their products. Government does. That means government officials have to take the title of "public servant" very seriously.

Taxpayers need to take verification seriously too. That's why we need state and local government check registers posted on the internet with plain explanations of how the money is spent. Other states are doing it. Arizona should too.

Dr. Byron Schlomach is the director of the Center for Economic Prosperity at the Goldwater Institute.

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