The media (television, internet, print, etc.) is consumed with talk about free stuff. Folks hear about and want free college, free universal medical care, free food (food stamps) and free everything. However, the dirty little secret is that someone or some entity has to pay for it.

When we observe that someone can win millions of dollars on the lottery, there is a great rush to qualify for this virtually “free” money. What does not get reported is that tens of millions of folks had to put up their money for someone else to win. We have even recently had it reported that the poor folk are the ones who are most attracted by the prospect of this offer of “free.”

I happen to enjoy receiving my monthly Social Security allotment. Each month the federal government deposits some money in my banking account. I neither have to work nor perform any service to receive this stipend. Is it “free?” No, not quite. I paid into this system for decades so that the federal government could save this money for me. Thus, when I get old the government can help take care of me. The problem is that the federal government did not set this money aside and save it, they spent it on other things. Where does my “free” money come from? It comes from the folks that are still working and thinking that the money withheld from their paychecks is being saved for them. At some point the Ponzi scheme will collapse. Incidentally, if I had been permitted to set that money aside myself and invest it conservatively, I would be much better off.

So now the folks are being offered “free” college and “free” medical care. Where is the money to come from? I have not read nor heard of college professors or even the colleges themselves offering to work or function for “free” and I have also not read nor heard of doctors or hospitals offering to work or function for “free.” How can this be “free?” There are only two possibilities — significantly increase taxes or significantly increase the national debt by borrowing even more money than is currently being borrowed.

So what is the dirty little secret about “free” college or “free” universal medical care? Someone or some entity has to pay for it. The easy answer to this is that the wealthy can pay for it. The only problem is that it would take virtually all the wealth that the wealthy have and it still would not be enough. The next answer is that the taxes on business would be increased. What are the ramifications of significantly raising business taxes? Business taxes in this country are already among the highest in the world if not the highest. Increased business taxes siphons away the money for new investment, new expansion and new growth. Jobs will be the victim of this option and the folks benefiting from the “free” college and “free” universal medical care will find that the “cost” of their “free” stuff is that their hopes of entering the middle class or even of becoming wealthy is lost because good paying jobs will not be available.

The concept of “free” is nonexistent as someone or some entity always must pay for “free.” The idea of not having to pay for college or medical care can sound very attractive. However, should all the people who do not go to college be required through higher taxes to pay for those that do? I think not. Should all those who work and have access to employer medical care have to pay higher taxes for “free” medical care for those who are able to work and choose to not work? I think not.

Be careful about “free” — it can cost more than you think.

Another View, a Maine Press Association award-winning column, is written on a rotating basis by a member of a group of Mid-coast citizens that meet to discuss issues they think are of public interest.

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