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What Happens to the Money?

When government starts spending money, it has a habit of just disappearing. The more money there is, the faster it disappears. It’s the one thing that government seems to do exceptionally well. Here in New Mexico, we’ve watched the Richardson administration burn through billions of dollars with little to show for it.

[Side note: Is it my imagination, or has some portion of I-40 between Tramway and I-25 been under construction for at least six straight years with little improvement?]

Of course, the government’s make-the-money-disappear act is not unique to New Mexico. Over the last few months, the federal government gave away hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the largest names in banking. Now, the question is: “Where did the money go?” And, the answer from the banks is: “We’re not telling?”

But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation’s largest banks say they can’t track exactly how they’re spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it.

“We’ve lent some of it. We’ve not lent some of it. We’ve not given any accounting of, ‘Here’s how we’re doing it,'” said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. “We have not disclosed that to the public. We’re declining to.”

The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what’s the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers.

Billions gone just like that. What do we have to show for it? Nothing. Of course, this bailout is not a one time shot in the economic arm. In less than a month, our new president will be sworn into office, and shortly thereafter, we can expect this process of giving away hundreds of billions of taxpayer money to be repeated again and quite possibly again.

I should probably be arguing against more economic bailouts, but at this point that would nothing more than an exercise in futility. The course has been set and the money is going to be spent. So, the only question that remains is whether or not, those who receive this next round of billions in taxpayer money get to “simply refuse to discuss” how the money was spent.