Starve the Beast

Ronald Reagan once said, “Well, if you’ve got a kid that’s extravagant, you can lecture him all you want to about his extravagance. Or you can cut his allowance and achieve the same end much quicker.”

This was to explain his planned policy of lowering taxes to force the government deeper into a deficit budget.

The idea is that if we put the government into a situation where we simply cannot afford particular programs, we will be forced to trim the fat.

The term for this is “Starve the Beast.”

It seems like a good plan, when presented in a simple single sentence explanation. The problem is that budgetary politics are never simple.

The voting population also didn’t see the complexities and just cheered at the lower taxes.

The plan wasn’t supposed to take 30 years either.

And it’s really just a bad idea.

Going back to the quote:

Sure we can throttle our kids spending by cutting their allowance. But does that teach them to handle money responsibly? Let’s face it, allowance doesn’t really teach personal responsibility in the first place. It’s an instrument to let our kids get stuff. Personal responsibility education starts with the part-time jobs and earning their own money. But throttling the cash-flow will reduce the rate of spending but won’t always make sure that the money the teenager spends is spent in the best manner.

It seems logical that the teenager would be forced to make value judgments and choose to spend his reduced allowance more frugally. Unfortunately logic and adolescence are polar opposites.

Am I saying that our government is an adolescent in the way it cannot learn to spend frugally?

Yes, yes I am.

Politicians are self-centered, logic devoid entities motivated by a single overwhelming desire. Interchange hormonal drives and greed for power and politicians are indistinguishable from teenagers.

The problem is always in determining where to cut money. I’ve already talked about how to trim the budget and I’ve already talked about how politicians are always willing to trim programs, as long as they don’t affect their States. I should now add they balk at cutting programs in the States of their political allies.

There are two problems with cutting the budget right now: It would cost jobs, which is never popular and even less popular in a recession. The other problem is that if we fix it, the opposing politicians have claim on the bragging rights. It doesn’t matter if they’re Republican or Democrat, there are enough of both parties in power right now that both sides have opportunity to claim responsibility for any positive results.

Politicians try to make sure there is no doubt who gets the credit. They also go out of their way to make sure the opposing party cannot claim credit. Once one party can claim credit they will hold on to power for a couple decades. Until one party can make an uncontested claim to the credit for the fix, any repairs to our budget will be small patches, just to ensure they can say they tried.

Every politician is now very vocal about how to fix the budget. What we don’t hear is that after saying “We need to fix the budget…” they finish the thought with “…if we can make sure our political party is obviously responsible for the fix.”

Politicians suck.


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