The Federal Budget is one of the most consistently misunderstood documents in American life. The vast majority of Americans have no real idea of the process involved in the budget’s adoption, or the scale (in terms of real money) of the thing itself. This is a major impediment to sound participatory democracy; a basic understanding of how our government plans for the harvest and allocation of tax dollars is a necessity. The good news, I believe, is that the basics are within the grasp of all Americans; it really isn’t rocket science folks (except for the NASA budget…that is rocket science).
In order to quickly see the fundamental points that a voter needs to understand, I will use a two-part example; the 2009 Federal Budget (George W. Bush’s last), and the campaign platform of Republican Senatorial candidate Sue Lowden (running in my home state of Nevada). As always, I would encourage the readers of this post to follow the logic using your own primary source material; just pick a budget year and play with the numbers, then compare what you have learned to the campaign promises (and folks, that process reveals that stretching the budget truth is a bipartisan deal). For this excersise, the budget data comes from the Government Printing Office and Mrs. Lowden’s positions come from her site.
The Government. The Feds. Washington. Words that strike anger and frustration into the hearts of a majority of Americans. The government of the people, by the people, and for the people, is being rejected…by the people. This stunning contradiction, almost fifty years in the making, is the bastard child of political branding, civic ignorance, and a hippie-like approach to the idea of civil liberty.
Before exploring the reasons, it is important to remember one critical fact; the Founding Fathers established this nation, under this constitution, because they understood that men must be governed. Anarchy and society cannot exist together, and whether through a king, feudal lords, or all-powerful corporate entities, some form of government would exist in any population of humans. Jefferson, Payne, Hamilton, Washington, Franklin, Hancock, Adams, and the rest felt that a representative democracy was the best choice to fill the role of government. Through painful and painstaking compromise, they managed to craft a structure that endures to this day.
There is a growing mythology in the United States about money and the “free market”. The GlennBecks of the world have a platform to speak, and have set about aggressively using that platform to spread bad ideas to the people that trust them. The facts about these issues are within the grasp of most Americans, so lets correct the misconceptions now.
Just a few thoughts on the imminent demise of real action on health care…..
There should have been a real conversation in this country on several topics;
- Why should taxpayers who have coverage bear a burden for the uninsured?
- How can a government program help to spur the creation of a competitive marketplace in health care?
- Why do government run programs in the rest of the world outperform U.S. providers in health care outcomes while costing less of those nation’s GDP?
- Can we trust government committees with sensitive choices in regards to our family’s health care?
- Why do we trust big insurance bureaucrats with sensitive choices in regards to our family’s health care?
- How do the costs of action now relate to costs in the future?
As someone who has spent nearly two decades in the practice of and study of business, I am not a hard sell when it comes to the notion of fiscal conservatism. Waste and inefficiency are the devils that haunt entrepreneurs and managers of businesses of every size, and fads cost money.
I have learned a golden rule of sorts over the years; one person’s waste is another’s investment in the business. I have known perfectly rational and intelligent managers who have chased away daily coffee customers (who buy a product that returns say, $ 0.60 on every purchase) by charging for “extra” creamers, and be perfectly willing to give away a book of matches to every cigarette customer at the same total profit.