Budget by default


Through the first seven months of this blog, there has yet to be a post on a political topic.  That is by design, obviously, though perhaps not because of what you would expect.

While politics, like religion, tends to be a polarizing subject capable of generating extreme and emotional points of view, I don’t see that as a reason for excluding it from my general ramblings.  The fact that I find most of the discussions boring is the reason.

People who delude themselves into thinking they are more important than the task they are working on is a situation so utterly commonplace as to be devoid of real interest.  This behavior has existed all the way from the school show-off to the media-seeking CEO.  That our elected officials exhibit this behavior is either an extension of the traits they have had their entire lives or simply the inevitable succumbing to the pressure of peers.

Still, I find the current “eleventh-hour” wrangling over the nation’s debt to be fascinating, especially in the extraordinary way that the issues so blindingly simple are made so inexplicably complex.  It’s another common trait shared by these personalities.  Life is not complex; people are.

Given the two sides to the discussion (and really, since when are there only two sides?), I thought a little debunking was in order, without suggesting party affiliation or partisan leaning.  They are simplicities within complications of simplicities.

Get out of the way and let free enterprise take over!

The problem, you see, is too much government.  Why, 235 years ago we formed this country to avoid penurious taxes and a monarchy trying to control our very thoughts.  If we just let the natural inventiveness of the American citizen; the ingenuity of the American industrial mind; if we let those lead the way, perhaps with some government support for growth and the remainder for defense and protection, the American economy, the American corporation, will guide us all to prosperity.

Except, of course, it doesn’t.

I would prefer to think that most elected officials who believe that incentives to large business will stimulate growth must be naïve.  The alternative, that they are either stupid or beholden, is unfair as a generalization.

Perhaps many of these people have not worked for corporations (large or small).  I have spent my entire adult life working for regional and multi-national companies.  The reality and the truth is that these companies’ only priority is to make more money.  Note, I did not say “harsh” reality or “sad” truth.  It is absolutely right and proper for the companies to make money; that is their purpose; no less than yours is to get paid well for your job.

The idea that companies will take money from the bottom line to distribute wealth or create jobs when there is no business to support that decision (say, in a recession) is ludicrous.  It is an emotional belief, based on the fact that, if a person was given extra money, they might share their good fortune.  You cannot expect that from a company.  Though they are sometimes called corporate “entities”, make no mistake – they are not living things no matter the metaphors used.  It’s only our need for humanizing things (referring to a car or boat by a personal pronoun) that causes us to forget a company is a collection of people and processes designed for one purpose:  to make money.  It’s a simple function.  The only complexity comes from people’s view of it.

A company is composed of many people.  You may work for a “good” manager.  A people person.  Someone who respects and rewards you for good work and educates you on not-so-good work.  Unless, of course, he works for a “bad” manager.  A non-people person.  Only interested in the bottom line.  Then your “good” manager can’t help you (get that raise or promotion or additional help) because his “bad” manager won’t let him.  Except, the “bad” manager saves the company money and gets the job done, so in the company’s view, he is a “good” manager.

Is this a broad and occasionally unfair portrayal of American business?  I’ll give you the “occasional” part, but not the “unfair”.  I’ve been there, you’ve been there and we’ve all done that.  Which begs the question, why don’t our elected officials know it?

Incentives given to business would then be given to existing or new employees?  Ridiculous.  It’s going to go to the bottom line.

A government should look after its citizens like a parent looks after its children

We need a strong, able, educated work force.  People who are given a real shot at that inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.  And when they stumble, as all children do, we need to be there to help them out.  Maybe not handhold them throughout life, but to be there to support them in their times of need.  A government should be more than protection from enemies; it should be of greater nobility and purpose and help guide its citizens with a concerned eye.

Except, of course, it doesn’t.

Just like the social framework of families has itself changed and (in some views) broken down over time, so has the government’s belief in its mandate to aid its citizens grown obese and confused.

Social programs run amok with such largesse that the end of the string is difficult, if not impossible to find.  Some of the most beneficent concepts and efforts on behalf of the citizens of this country have grown so tangled that the control over the process is beyond reasonable management.

The ability for people to receive benefits from some of these programs improperly; the opportunity to use the benefits gained properly but in inappropriate ways; the nigh-impossible navigating through labyrinths of red tape, multiple agencies and layers of employees to find answers leaves most people either hopeless or helpless in trying to do “the right thing” and the government impotent to enforce its will on those others intending to do the opposite.

Helping protect people temporarily during unemployment; helping support people who never made the “nest egg” level to afford good health care in their senior years; providing aid and encouragement to people who genuinely want to improve their education; these are all noble and valid roles for a government – provided they can truly be governed.

Any idea, from an individual to a nation of hundreds of millions, needs to have some basis for feedback and response.  Imagine, if you will, coming up with the idea to eat supper, but having to wait 6-8 months before you could open your refrigerator.  The government has so many programs running at such a large scope, it is unable to open the refrigerator even if it were starving.

To continue to fund programs and projects that are already afoul of mismanagement and loss of control is like trying to build a skyscraper in a swamp.  As more floors sink below the surface, the government simply adds more floors to the top.  After all, sooner or later, that building just has to stop sinking, right?


I could ramble on about term limits, checks and balances, campaign funds, etc., etc., but you’ve heard it all before…heck, you’ve probably said it all before.  As I mentioned earlier:  boring.

Still, I have to believe even the most jaded and non-political American citizen must have been intensely frustrated with the silly and self-serving selfishness of our elected officials recently.  Never has the effort to “hurt the other guy” been as evident as it has during this pointless debate.

Because, as always, the issue is really simple.  It’s not about how the government spends; it’s about how the government runs.  Changing that is also simple and it’s not by officials looking in cameras.

It’s about them looking in mirrors.

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