The Overly Political Budget

No politician, of either party, thinks that it’s a good thing to spend more money than we have. Despite the old school labels for the political parties, both parties want to balance the budget.

The difference is how they do it. What do they cut?

It would seem the rational choice would be to cut the programs that do the least good for our country. This would include the massive amount of bureaucratic redundancy. The problem, when faced with multiple resources doing the same thing is deciding which to cut. And then it gets political if each is located in a different political jurisdiction. Whose constituents do we put out of work?

Another way to define which programs do the least good is to look at the number of jobs over the amount of money. Programs that provide more jobs for less money would be preferable to keep over those that provide fewer jobs for more money. I mean the more people we lay off; the more tax money gets spent on welfare and unemployment.

It seems that more often than not, elected officials define the least good as the people that provide the least amount of money to their campaigns. Recipients of social programs are notoriously short of resources to donate to electoral campaigns. They speak with loud voices, often because they have the time to because don’t work full time, and not always by choice. But they don’t provide resources to political campaigns. This means to a pragmatic politician, they are a good target for budget cuts.

I hate pragmatic politics sometimes. I will openly admit that I needed social programs at one time in my life to support my family. At the time, an enlisted military income was insufficient for a family of four. I don’t suspect it’s much better now. Like all bureaucratic organizations, social programs are bloated. Until we’re willing to make a onetime expensive investment to overhaul the system and trim the fat, we have no other options to keep the unfortunate fed and housed.

Then there are the short-sighted politicians who think it’s a good idea to cut educational programs. That’s just assuring that we, as a nation, slip downward on the global economic scale.

If we lived in a microcosm sealed economy we would need to maintain portions of society at all levels of the economic model from raw materials to manufacturing to marketing, etc, for every product we wanted or needed. In that model, education can be something of a luxury that we limit to those who can earn it one way or another.

However we live in a global economy, we don’t need to provide everything. We can focus on the things we can provide for the least investment and can sell to the world for the most return. We can focus on things we do best. And, if we have the education, we can pioneer the trail into defining what people will want and need in the future. Education is the ultimate investment in the future. We can argue whether education subsidies should come from the federal or the state level, but it’s a silly argument. We pay for it either way. Whether we pay for a bloated centralized system or a redundant localized system, the cost is the same. There are arguments either way for a state or federal education department. But if we’re looking to save tax-payer money, cutting education is the most short-sighted solution of all.

The truly short-sighted look back to find blame rather than look forward to find solutions. Yes we spent more than a trillion dollars in programs designed to keep the recession from becoming a depression. It’s easy to claim that these programs weren’t needed. The economy is so complex it’s simple to credit the recovery to just about anything without crediting the investments made in the early days of Obama’s administration.

At the time of those programs passing through congress, every politician saw they were good and necessary. Congress split on exactly how to jumpstart the economy and both parties submitted ideas. The end result used the major points from both party’s plans, but more from the Democratic Party. Republicans didn’t vote for it, not because they thought it was a bad idea, but because it would pass without their votes and they knew it would be hard to identify it as a cause for economic recovery so they could cite it as Democratic Party spending. Had the Republicans held power, the same bill would have passed with only very minor differences. The most significant of those differences would be that all the Republicans would’ve voted for it and only a few Democrats. Party-line Politics suck.

The question I would like to see answered is which party will hold power when we finally see the true solution to the deficit. Like dieting to lose weight, it’s a two part process: Eat Less, Exercise more. For the deficit, it means: Spend Less, Tax More. Invest in Tomorrow rather than borrow from it. Paying 3% higher taxes now across the board (while cutting wasteful spending), would pay down the debt to where in twenty years we could be paying 5% less and helping guarantee the solvency and sufficiency of our retirement programs.

But raising taxes, no matter how necessary or how good the solution is, is unpopular. It’s a hard hurdle to overcome when running for re-election. While we can always continue to blame the previous office holders, it is only the current elected officials with the power and responsibility to change the future for the better.

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