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Reason Foundation

Now cities want bailout money too

Anthony Randazzo
November 13, 2008, 10:14am

At the risk of sounding like a broken record... the list of bailout beggars continues to grow. All of the finance industry, the auto industry, states, insurance companies, the list goes on, all want some of the bailout money Congress set aside to buy up toxic mortgage debt. Now Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Phoenix have become the first cities to officially request cash. The AP reports:
Three big city mayors asked the federal government Friday to use a portion of the $700 billion financial bailout to assist struggling cities. The mayors sought help with their pension costs, infrastructure investment and cash-flow problems stemming from the global financial crisis. The mayors–Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Shirley Franklin of Atlanta and Phil Gordon of Phoenix–made their request in a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Nutter said cities are facing an economic crisis not seen since the Depression and need help just like financial institutions. "I want to make sure that cities and metro areas are at the table, that their voices are being heard, that our challenges and problems are well understood, so that we can get relief," Nutter said. President-elect Barack Obama has also called for some sort of aid to state and local governments so they don't have to raise taxes or lay off workers while the federal government is trying to revive the economy, but he hasn't proposed or endorsed a specific aid plan. The three mayors proposed providing loans to help cities pay pension costs. They also want $50 billion in loans for investment in infrastructure, and additional one-year loans to cities unable to borrow cash because of the tight credit markets.
Cities will need to cut spending and operate more efficiently to remain solvent in this time of crisis. But as former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler recently told Reason, "The question then arises, why don't governments do this all the time, why would this be something they should do when a financial crisis hits. I would argue it is something they should do all the time. It becomes especially important in times of crisis. When you can't afford to fool around anymore, you should stop fooling around." This isn't a time for tax dollars from New Mexico to be redistributed to keep Philadelphia from needing to make tough choices. This is a time for all governments--including the federal government--to find ways to operate more efficiently. That may not even mean cutting services, it just means becoming responsible, something the U.S. Postal Service, $2.8 billion in the red, could learn a thing or two about.

Anthony Randazzo is Director of Economic Research


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