Editor’s Desk

Tax dollars wasted in drive-through

March 21, 2014 

What I saw bothered me, though not enough to fire off an email to the governor or a state legislator. Instead, it was another confirmation of what I have long known: Not all government employees are good stewards of our tax dollars.

After dropping by the office-supply store on North Bright Leaf Boulevard in Smithfield, I scooted out through the parking lot at Hardee’s, figuring I’d take Interstate 95 home to Four Oaks. That’s when I saw it, a car with a permanent tag in the drive-through lane.

We all know that drive-thrus waste gas, and thereby money, because of idling while motorists order and wait for food. So why was a state employee wasting my tax dollars in the drive-through lane at Hardee’s?

It’s possible this obvious waste of taxpayer dollars never dawned on this government employee. But it’s possible too that the waste did occur to her, and she simply didn’t care. The former scenario would suggest that government managers don’t preach stewardship to their employees. The latter would suggest that government managers are hiring the wrong people to start with.

I know the employee didn’t waste a lot of my tax dollars while going waiting in the drive-through. But the dollars add up. On one website I visited, a physics professor estimated that Americans waste 400,000 gallons of gas daily in drive-throughs at fast-food restaurants. At the national average of price of $3.55 per gallon of regular gasoline, that’s $1.42 million a day and doesn’t include the gas wasted in drive-thrus at banks, pharmacies and the like.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m as guilty as the next guy, meaning I have spent my fair share of time idling in drive-through lanes at restaurants, banks and pharmacies. But when I did, I was wasting my own money (while, admittedly, polluting everyone’s air).

But the government employee was wasting taxpayer money, and she shouldn’t have been. I hope government managers will read this column and say to their employees: “Yes, this old newspaper editor is a curmudgeon, but he’s also right. Treat taxpayer money like it is coming out of your pocket, and maybe we’ll save enough money to get the raises we haven’t gotten in years.”

That manager would be doing taxpayers and his employers a favor.

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