Give Me My Money

January 9th, 2014

Friend Charley is from New Jersey. In a recent conversation about books, food and taxes – you know, the usual stuff – he talked about growing up in the most populated part of the country and the common lament of folks thereabouts: If we pay the most per square foot in taxes, where is our money going?

Well, Charley, call home and tell them things are looking up. The governor of Tennessee has about five or six billion of our dollars he doesn’t want, and he’s about to make it rain.

Who knows? Some of that might land in Jersey.

As published in The Daily News, January 10, 2014, and in The Memphis News, January 11-17, 2014



I thought I heard the captain say
Pay me my money down
Tomorrow is our sailing day
Pay me my money down

That’s from the old work song, “Pay Me My Money Down,” later sung by Pete Seeger and more lately by Bruce Springsteen. I’d like for Bill, Ron, Mark, Brian, all the boys and Beth in Nashville to gather round and listen close before they let five or six billion of my dollars set sail for another state. Before their hardheaded ideology hits the weakest of us the hardest and unravels whatever safety net we had. Before their pitched battle against one black man in one white house costs every child in Tennessee a shot at Pre-K and a chance tomorrow. Before narrow minds with even narrower agendas can do such broad damage across an entire state.

Pay me, pay me
Pay me my money down
Pay me or go to jail
Pay me my money down

It’s my money. And yours. We’ve already paid it in federal taxes and now the United States wants to send more than a billion dollars of it back to us every year to expand Medicaid coverage to more than 300,000 working Tennesseans who don’t have insurance now – more than 60,000 of those are our neighbors in Shelby County.

It’s my money. And yours. We’ve already paid it in federal taxes and now the United States wants to send more than $64 million of it back to us to provide Pre-K for almost 8,000 more Tennessee kids – thousands more in Shelby County.

It’s my money. And yours. We’ve already paid it in federal taxes and not taking it won’t save the United States a penny, it’ll just send it somewhere else – a billion here and a billion there of your dollars to this state or that – a billion here or a billion there of your dollars to improve hospitals and healthcare somewhere else – to see the light shine in a child’s eyes in a distant classroom – for a healthier, brighter future in some distant city.

The reasons for taking the money are simple. First, it’s yours and it should go to you. Second, it’ll pay for the entire Medicaid expansion the first year and 90% of it every year after that, and Pre-K gets thrown in as a bonus. Third, even if something happens down the line – and, granted, something generally does – the benefits derived in the interim, the lives saved, and the positive momentum will be meaningful and lasting.

The reasons for not taking it are simple, too. Actually, there’s just one. If we take our own money back from the United States to solve our own problems and invest in our own tomorrow, somebody might think we like – in the words of John McCain from the 2008 campaign – “that one” in the White House.

I’ll leave it up to you to determine which of those simple reasons is simply stupid.

I’m a Memphian, and a Tennessean, and I want my money.


I'm a Memphian by Dan Conaway

The book is available all over town – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look.



Jim Beaty: Dan, Politics aside, that is $5-6 billion that we do not have, we being the USA. It is borrowed money. We currently have a $1.3 trillion annual operating deficit and nearly $18 trillion in debt. The question is, are we Tennesseans or are we Americans. Me, I am an American first, and and all Americans live in a house that is in serious economic disarray. Like I said, politics aside.

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