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“Grandpa. Why did you make me legally obligated to pay off your $500,000 loan?”

“Well, granddaughter, I panicked and thought I needed the money. When I figured out I didn’t need it or at least not all of it, I went ahead and spent all of the money anyway. I guess – I guess I just didn’t think about my loan would one day fall on your shoulders.”

“Why not, Grandpa?”

Most of us, even a child, understand there is no such thing as free money. But not all of us act like it.

Taxpayer bailouts are not free money. We are creating government debt today that must be serviced by our children and our grandchildren for decades to come.

Thousands of businesses are taking a government bailout even though they don’t need it. Many of the businesses who think there is such a thing as free money are the white-collar professional firms – accounting firms, law firms, stockbrokers, insurance agents. Many, if not most, applied for and received a taxpayer rescue of their company – even though many, if not most, are not at risk.

To qualify for a taxpayer bailout under the payroll protection plan, a borrower has to legally certify, “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the applicant ….Borrowers must make this certification in good faith, taking into account their current business activity and their ability to access other sources of liquidity.”

These firms had to legally certify to our government, they believed their taxpayer rescue was necessary to keep their business going and believe their local firm did not have sufficient liquidity to survive without a taxpayer bailout.

Perhaps at the time they applied for the taxpayer funds, the insurance agent truly thought many clients would cancel their life insurance policies or cancel their homeowner’s insurance.

Perhaps the stockbrokers truly thought this was different than other stock market downturns, and their commissions would disappear.

Perhaps the accounting firms truly imagined many clients would not file a tax return this year.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt: In a moment of panic, they applied for a taxpayer bailout in good faith and had no other business or personal sources of reserves. Weeks later, it is clear many businesses who received a taxpayer lifeline did not need the money, or do not need anywhere near the money they received.

Give the money back. It’s not free. It’s a loan you are asking your children and grandchildren to pay.

Here’s why the taxpayer bailout these firms received is also a financial bonanza for these businesses.

If an accounting firm was doing $100,000 a month in revenue, they were perhaps making $10,000 a month profit with about $60,000 of their costs in payroll, benefits, rent and utilities. We, the taxpayers, are now paying their payroll, rent and utility bills for two months. If that company’s revenue did not go down, the accounting firm is now making $70,000 a month in profit.

Is an increase in monthly profit from $10,000 to $70,000 the purpose of the government assistance program? At the minimum, to the extent the firm had excess profits — give the money back.

These firms all went to the front of the line for taxpayer bailouts, while the merchants of Main Street, including our local restaurants, got little or nothing. The tragedy is our friends who are the merchants of Main Street are the clients of these accounting, insurance and law firms. The clients got little or nothing while the white-collar firms racked in a bailout bonanza. Give the money back.

How much did each of our local professional firms take and not give back? Which of our local firms thought they did not have financial resources to survive without a taxpayer bailout? That will be public information in this paper and live on the internet forever.

Will you be able to hold your head high when your friends and neighbors examine your actions?

It is understandable you panicked. Keep only what you need to survive. Give the rest of the money back.

Our children and grandchildren deserve better behavior.

David Dunn-Rankin is CEO of D-R Media, which owns the Winter Haven Sun, Four Corners News-Sun and Polk News-Sun in Polk County, as well as newspapers in Highlands, Lake and Sumter counties. He can be reached at David@D-R.Media.