Everyone’s Business:

Federal government has its pluses

October 27, 2009|By ROBERT PHIPPS

Lately, there’s been some chatter about the merits of going after the bevy of federal stimulus dollars, and what the chase could mean for municipal independence.

The City Council recently agreed to spend $25,200 to hire a consultant to identify more of the stimulus money, in addition to about $10.6 million Burbank has been allocated so far.

Some feel we should not take federal money because it will come with dependence. There is merit in that caution.

Most of us would like to have more money, but even as children we learn that asking for a larger allowance usually brings additional responsibilities.


A concern with accepting money from a higher government is possibly becoming addicted to the additional funds. It would be fine, if all the money went into infrastructure or other one-time expenditures. In that case, additional funds would not be needed on an ongoing basis, so there would be nothing for the federal government to withhold in the future in order to manipulate Burbank’s behavior.

If we have specific needs and are looking for the money to fund them, that’s one thing; but if we’re just trying to get as much free money as we can, to then try to think of ways to spend it, I think that’s risky. The latter situation could promote an attitude of expectation that could do us more harm than good, and leave us dependent on the federal government the way an addict is toward his or her pusher. Sometimes “free” can become very expensive.

But while I generally agree with this thesis, I am troubled by the tone some people have taken. In his emotional Oct. 11 commentary, Joseph Di Sante argued against “phony overprinted money the government is throwing around like rice,” and “Do not allow the [spiny] fingers of the federal government into the beautiful space that is Burbank.”

It reminded me of inflammatory anti-government rhetoric that I routinely hear on television, which makes me feel like I’m experiencing the parroted position of some moneyed interest to which the current communicator has given little or no thought.

Governments are not all good or all bad. The reality is, they are inevitable. We create them so we can conduct our lives in a safe, productive and enjoyable manner. How many of us would fly with no Federal Aviation Administration to regulate air traffic for safety, or would want to entirely disband our armed forces?

Should we dissolve our federal courts that tell local police they can’t prevent us from speaking or assembling or possessing arms? Should we go back to trusts and monopolies? Shall we remove government inspection of food and drugs, or abolish federal commerce protection and let each state charge its own tariffs and tolls just to cross their borders?

The people created the federal government because they knew that for some things a central government is necessary. Without the federal government to define and enforce it, there would be no Constitution for irate reactors to a violation.

A reading of the Constitution (and government pages of the phone book) will illuminate countless services that we receive — and want — from the federal government, and take for granted.

 ROBERT PHIPPS is a longtime Burbank resident who’s been involved in politics and business, at one level or another, for many years. He can be reached at WriteRobertPhipps@

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