Updated from the original blog entry
The Anti-Candidate's Position on BUDGET & SPENDING
The budget deficit is something we've done to ourselves, partly in the way we've demanded and been granted various entitlements and partly in the way we develop and manage the budgets in the first place. Entitlements we can't do too much about at the moment, and don't get us started on Social Security.
But as for the budget itself, the discretionary budget, the entire system of planning and review is built to increase spending year by year. Not just because every government program has an unstated aim of "continued existence," requiring justification and lobbying and exaggerated reports of its benefits to all mankind (and one or two alien species as well). No, the system is built to increase spending because of two rules of thumb drilled into everyone:
- If you didn't spend all the money you were budgeted this year, then you obviously didn't need it and therefore don't need as much next year.
- If you did spend all the money you were budgeted this year, then obviously you need more next year.
After all, that's easier than actually planning what you're going to do and then living up to the plan. Heavens, that would require work -- and some government workers seem to be allergic to work. (As a government worker, at the Federal and again at the State level, we're very comfortable making that assertion. Make of that what you will.)
Now, we recognize that some contingencies are hard to plan for. It's difficult to foresee which of a half-dozen hurricanes that hit the country in a given year are going to strike major population centers, and if we turn out to get a dozen hurricanes, so much the worse. It's hard to know when a bunch of religious nutjobs will be whipped into a frenzy of vengeful service to their vengeful god by malicious shamans preaching blood and destruction, and decide to fly human-populated self-guided missiles into major office complexes. So, yes, emergencies will happen and we need to take care of them accordingly.
But we can do "business as usual" a lot better. For starters, the people in charge of governmental enterprises -- directors, project managers, heads of agencies -- should be rewarded on the basis of how much of their budgets they return to the Treasury, while those who overspend should have to explain their malfeasance and possibly justify their continued employment.
What would help even more is the use of "multi-year" money: if funds didn't "disappear" at the end of the fiscal year, agencies wouldn't engage in spending sprees every August and September.
Imagine if you knew your bank accounts were going to be zeroed out on September 30th -- and then imagine that you also knew that come October 1st, you might not have any money because you have to wait for the people in Washington to decide to give you some. Wouldn't you spend all you had in order to carry you through the first few months of the next fiscal year? Of course you would.
As we said, we -- the collective we -- have done this to ourselves.
We could let departments carry forward a percentage of their budgets, but that would be treating them as if they were responsible adults -- and we're not sure the government is built to do that. Instead we treat them as if they're irresponsible and feign surprise when that's exactly how they act.
Shame on us.