Pounds & Pennies in Memphis 

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Remember the old saw, "It takes money to make money"? That's a classic, right up there with, "The Lord helps those who help themselves," which makes the same kind of sense. The idea behind both sayings is that all good

results have to be seeded in advance from somewhere, somehow. Merely consider turning those two chestnuts upside down: "It takes the absence of money to make money;" "The Lord helps those who decline to help themselves," and you get instant nonsense. Or at least fodder for debate.

And the same insight applies to some of the other standard proverbs. Such as, "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow." You gotta have the acorns to start with, of course.

This principle — call it "priming the pump" — came to mind this week when we read that the federal government is going to try to reclaim from the city of Memphis some $3.8 million that it advanced the city to build an automobile inspection station off Appling in East Memphis. That's the amount that was advanced by the feds under an air-quality initiative to build a facility that cost a total of $6 million to construct. That's real American money, nothing theoretical about it, and, unless our various representatives in the state and federal government can work out some swaps or pro rata reductions that will take the city wholly or partly off the hook, it will take ... $3.8 million to pay the money back.

That's dead loss, and if you start to consider some of the intangibles involved in the affair, you begin to realize that it's more than likely that the abolition of the testing station on Appling and the others that the city used to operate will already have resulted in various damages to the ecology and urban infrastructure in undetected air pollution, a greater incidence in traffic accidents and fatalities, and work-time lost from unanticipated glitches in people's personal transportation.

A similar loss has afflicted the city with the departure of an estimated 300 to 400 first-responders who have resigned, due to a loss of or decrease in their health benefits as a result of budget cuts undertaken by the mayor and city council over the last couple of years.

Mayor-elect Jim Strickland made it a chief plank in his electoral platform to reinforce public safety, so as to make Memphis a desirable place to live and work, and to stabilize and stop the drain of people and resources from the area. But as councilman, Strickland had been among those advocating and voting for the cuts in benefits. Now the circle has come full and the problem is back in his mayoral lap. To which, we say, good luck, Jim!

We're not even going to get started on the abysmal cost to the state of Tennessee — hundreds of millions of dollars, plus lives lost, health ruined, and hospitals shuttered — as a result of the state government's refusal to accept Medicaid-expansion. The sheer moral and fiscal irresponsibility of that folly continues to counter all human logic.

But, so be it. Can we be penny foolish and pound foolish at the same time? The answer appears to be yes. Oh, well, Happy Thanksgiving, all the same!


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