Everyone, it seems, is looking for a bailout.

Many leading financial firms have already received billions from the federal government, and some are already back for a second helping. Likewise, many states and cities are counting on stimulus funds from the feds to help balance their budgets.

So let's remember that with any and all of the recommendations for the latest $825 billion stimulus package - whether it's the increased spending favored by Democrats or the tax cuts preferred by Republicans - the money is all borrowed and will have to be paid back by taxpayers.

That's why it is best to make sure the money is properly spent and not earmarked for a wish list of pet projects by a long line of pols.

Half of the $700 billion earmarked to help banks last fall in the Troubled Assets Relief Program has already been spent. Yet, many banks still appear to be in serious trouble.

The new Congress has released the other half to the Obama administration. But it's still unclear if the first $350 billion made a dent or was properly spent. The financial sector can't fully account for all the money.

Now there is talk of using the remaining TARP money for other troubled industries. Might more bailout or stimulus funds be needed for the banking sector? Or could the money be better spent for large-scale mortgage relief?

Likewise, the wish list for some of the stimulus funds seems dubious at best. For example, should stimulus spending include hundreds of millions for contraceptives, or for new grass on the Washington Mall, or billions to revamp federal offices?

Any stimulus spending should go to create jobs or to provide assistance for those hurt by the recession. Earmarking funds for dubious pet projects has no place, especially when resources are so limited.

It's incumbent upon the Obama administration and Congress to ensure that the taxpayers get the best bang for their bailout bucks.