Scott Tibbs
blog post
March 10th, 2005

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With government money comes government strings.

The debate over the "Living Wage Ordinance" in front of the City Council should give pause to conservatives who support plans to give government grants to faith-based charities or plans to supply vouchers so children in government schools can attend private schools.

What happens, in ten years, if the Congress decides that faith based charities that get money from the federal government must, as a condition of getting that money, pay their employees a "living wage"? What if there is no "floor" on how much money they get, or what if the "floor" is low enough to include virtually all faith-based charities anyway?

What if the Indiana Legislature decides, as a condition for cashing in tuition vouchers from state government, that private schools also must pay a "living wage" to their employees?

In both cases, what if the private schools and/or faith-based charities have come to depend on the money from vouchers or grants?

With government money comes government strings. When you accept money from government, you open yourself up to having regulations imposed on you as a condition of receiving that money. Private charities in Bloomington (including the ones who accepted money from the Community Development Block Grants last week as well as the ones who will get money from the Jack Hopkins fund this summer) will find that out very quickly when the city passes the Living Wage Ordinance. Even if Tim Mayer's amendment passes and private charities are exempted, the ordinance can always be modified later to include private charities.

Simply adding economic requirements to cashing in a voucher or accepting a faith based charities grant should be the least of the concerns private schools or faith-based charities could face if they accept government money. They could eventually be forced to choose between their principles and government money. What will happen if a Christian charity or school is told that they may not discriminate on the basis of sexual preference? Will they give up the grant or the voucher, or will they cave in?

Both the faith-based charities plan and vouchers for private schools represent new government programs. Why should conservatives, who traditionally favor limited government, want to expand government with these programs?

We do not need another government program to funnel money to faith-based charities or private schools. Conservatives should not be supportive of efforts to expand government, even when it provides a "benefit" to their allies. That is especially true when that "benefit" could easily become an albatross.