Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: Extravagance or necessity?

If you won the lottery, what would you do?

Would you continue to live modestly, invest the money, pay off the mortgage and other old bills? Would you drastically change your lifestyle, buy an extravagant home, go on luxury vacations, buy hot cars and big boats? Would it be a compromise between these extremes?

Personally, I’d plan a compromise. I’d spend some on extravagance, for sure, but I’d like to think I’d take care of the necessities, as well.

When the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was implemented in 2010, it was like winning the lottery for federal, state and local government agencies, non-government agencies as well as colleges and universities in or relatively near the Great Lakes. Just like people winning “free” money, some who received GLRI money used it frugally, some went over the top and most did some of both.

The reality check is there’s no such thing as “free” money. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding was part of the doubling of the national debt, from 10 trillion dollars to 20 trillion between 2009 and 2017. GLRI money wasn’t free, it was borrowed.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for restoring the Great Lakes. I wish they’d never become impaired. I wish needed restoration had started earlier and advanced more quickly. I wish the money for the GLRI was really free. I wish the money spent since the GLRI was implemented had all gone to address real areas of concern. I wish the money hadn’t bought a new concert venue in Chicago, new bridges far from Lake Ontario, or paid for tree planting in Detroit.

The truth of the matter is the U.S. can’t continue to expand its debt as it did in the last decade and longer. The truth of the matter is the Great Lakes have been being restored for decades, before the GLRI was devised. The truth of the matter is the Trump budget proposal, totally eliminating the GLRI, won’t be in the final budget coming out of Congress. The truth of the matter is even if the proposed budget were to pass, restoration of the Great Lakes would continue – though new park benches may not be installed along Cleveland’s Flats East Riverwalk.

The truth is, though you are hearing doom and gloom from every group, agency and government entity that profited from the GLRI in the last eight years, I believe the Great Lakes are truly great, will continue to be great and will only get better, regardless of whatever budget cuts actually become reality.

Categories: Michigan – Mike Schoonveld

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