Mary’s Musings

Whose money is it, anyway?

Posted:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - 8:30am

Why is it that so many elected officials, company heads, and others who don’t have to answer to higher-ups,  find it so tempting to waste someone else’s money? If they don’t have a superior looking over their shoulder, they somehow think that means they’re “entitled’’ and somehow privileged. The ones we hear about most often, understandably, are politicians because in the long run, their record on expenditures is public record.

The latest reports of questionable practices have involved travel, with some leaders in Washington taking advantage of their huge travel budgets by splurging rather than being frugal.  After all, there isn’t much incentive to watch every penny when: 1. It’s not your money; 2. Nobody’s paying much attention; and 3. you feel you’re entitled, because you are, after all, a Very Important Person.

Recently, some Washington insiders have been accused of taking advantage of air transportation opportunities ranging from first-class accommodations on regularly scheduled flights to making arrangements for private charters.  It’s also not uncommon to take a spouse along free of charge. Many business people do it and pay for any extra charges. Most of us can understand that in some instances, it’s the logical thing to do. In the long run, it boils down to fairness and responsibility.

It’s a bit disconcerting to watch elected political figures - not just those in Washington, either – milk the system for every freebie hey can get. They preach fiscal responsibility as candidates, and suddenly appear to be cut from a different cloth once they’re elected. We’d like to say this is a brand-new problem, but every administration seems to have had its share of men and women who want that extra perk or almighty dollar.

Most elected officials earn pretty fair salaries. There should be no need to take advantage of the taxpayer. The biggest problem, obviously, is that it’s difficult to monitor expenditures by politicians except on the local level, where there’s usually a watchdog on every corner making sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.

An expense account really boils down to integrity, doesn’t it? Honest folks bend over backwards to make sure they aren’t overspending, while those who think taxpayers owe them something extra will take every opportunity to milk the system. The only true way to ensure that we have elected officials of the highest integrity is at the ballot box and to guarantee the same for our business leaders is with a careful hiring process.  Sadly, we live in a different world today and too many are looking for a free ride.