-By Warner Todd Huston
The New York Times had a small story that it likely thought was just an amusing little tale of a quirky government program from Los Angeles. Centered on the gift shop run by the L.A County Coroner’s Department, the Times indulged such lines as “we’re dying for your business,” and headlined the piece “Dealing in Death, and Trying to Make a Living.” But one little part of the story should serve as a warning not to believe any politician or government hack that says their office or project will “make money.”
According to the Times the gift shop at the L.A. Coroner’s office was initially started in the early 1990s when a secretary working for the county noticed that mugs and T-shirts with the county coroner’s logo on them were popular items at forensics conferences. The county thought that a gift shop would be a moneymaker and when the coroner’s office floated the idea to the county government it claimed that the money the shop would make would pay for an anti-drunken driving course for teens.
Turns out it’s the ‘tother way ’round.
But it turns out that the shop’s slogan — “We’re dying for your business!” — is all too accurate. The shop was once supposed to make enough money to pay for an anti-drunken-driving course for teenagers that includes a visit to the morgue.
But a recent report from county auditors shows that it has not made a profit for years and is actually subsidized by the very program it was meant to finance.
Why has the shop failed to make a profit? The Times thinks it’s a lack of proper advertising and neglect. The truth is that it’s just a government program. That is what government programs are, mismanaged.
Government does not and cannot make money. All government can do successfully is take money away from people, waste that money, and in exchange offer badly run programs that ill serve the public.
Anyone that believed the county coroner’s office that this gift shop could be a big money maker was frankly a moron. The same can be said of any government program that is claimed to be a moneymaker.
Even more typical of failed government ideas is the fact that L.A. implemented this gift shop claiming that it would “pay for” another program, that it would fund two programs in one. Of course, what really ended up happening was that the anti-drunk driving program was started before any profits from the gift shop were realized. Funds were allocated for it with the expectations that the gift shop would reimburse the county for both programs but instead more taxes had to be allocated to fund them both as the gift shop failed to perform as expected.
Giant failures all the way around with the taxpayers being the ones fleeced over it all, naturally.
And therein lies the lesson. If you hear a government hack claiming that all he needs is a few tax dollars for a program that would surely bring a windfall of profits, better keep your hand on your wallet because all those profits will never materialize and you’ll end up footing the bill for the whole shooting match and more.
Government cannot make money, It can only steal it away from the taxpayers.