Monday, August 04, 2008

Budgets and Relative Belt Tightening

When the budget gets tight at the Kole house, the vacation budget is eliminated. It's a 100% budget cut, until such time as we can afford it. We eat out 75% less. Entertainment is little more than a trip to the library. New clothing purchases are halted. Etc. In sum, the cuts are pretty harsh.

Elected officials are therefore hilarious in comparison. They whine and moan about 3% or 4% budget cuts. Boo-friggin'-hoo!

Here's an interesting bit from Cato's David Boaz:
Time to stop spending, eh? That would be most people’s response to an unprecedented deficit. And they do mention “irresponsible spending” later in the piece. But somehow, it appears that the governors thought that was a good lead for an article in the Washington Post demanding more federal spending to subsidize state governments.

They lamented the the plight of the state budgets; New York, for instance, asked state agencies “to slash their state budgets by 3.35 percent.” Now, if I had to cut my budget for a new sofa, say, from $1,000 to $966.50, I don’t think I’d call that a “slash”; it’s more like margin of error.

Hilarious. And there are some who make it out that Grover Norquist has won the day, that fiscal conservatism has triumphed, with taxes almost nil, and the federal government shrunk to the size of that of the Polk Administration.

Reason has picked up on this willful ignorance, also, noting how some fans of larger government are tying the downward slide of the Republican Party to the idea that said slide is proof of the failure of fiscal conservatism. I took Balloon Juice to task on this just last week. From Reason's Matt Welch:
"...a strain of curious left-of-center analysis I'm seeing more and more this election: That the Republicans are losing because limited-government ideas don't work, and are no longer popular.

This critique requires a significant leap of logic − that George W. Bush, and his would-be GOP successor John McCain, practice and/or believe in limited government principles."

Fiscal conservatism wasn't even tried out by the Republicans. Tax cut, borrow and spend simply isn't a fiscally conservative ideal. McCain thinks cutting earmarks is a slash, just as NY's governor thinks a 3% nick is a draconian reversion to primitive barbarism.

At the Kole house, and I'm quite sure at many others across the land, when the money isn't there, we radically cut our spending, by as much as 40%. We don't take out loans so that we can keep spending. We don't commandeer from our neighbors under the premise of 'the common good'. We cut spending.


pearse said...

I understand your premise, but I wonder about the following.

While you are willing to forego a vacation and the benefit derived form it in order to save the cost do you think a taxing unit can simply eliminate a service?

We can get into a discussion that governments do too much, and they do, but many times those items do not add up to that much of a cost.

I happen to have access to an Indiana County's 2007 actual budget(no I do not work for the county) and if you were to cut the surveyor, drainage board, extension office, coroner, 2 township assessors, plan commission, museum, weights and measures, and the soil and water board you could cut ~8% or ~700k of their general fund budget. That leaves in place basically public safety and the business and governing offices for the county. Now this id double your 3-4% you talk about, but most taxpayers are going to have a problem cutting a number of items I have pulled out.

In order to cut deeper, you need to go after public safety, highway funds or start to shut down what most people consider to be essential offices.

Maybe what we are really talking about is not our government being unwilling to cut, rather our citizens being unwilling to cut. Everyone will stand up and declare they do not want to pay more taxes, but most of them are not ready to give up services they have come to expect.

Mike Kole said...

That's county government you're talking about, and I agree that it would be harder to cut wholesale departments at that level, because they do tend to be more essential to more people. Coroner, and Surveyor, for example, are mandated by the state constitution, so it would require a constitutional change to eliminate them... and I am not of the opinion that elimination would be beneficial.

I am not infavor of cutting safety or the courts- actual essential services. Municipalities, counties and states tend to put these out there for cutting first, because people instantly respond against cuts to true essentials. They rarely say, "ok, here's some fluff". They protect their spending.

Going to the federal level, much elimination could, and in my opinion, should happen. The Department of Education is my #1 target. I'll allow others to fill in the blanks with their favorite targets.

As to who stands up to defend these things, well, it usually seems to be a vocal minority that has a vested interest. I don't believe that the average person even knows what most departments do (unless they are obviously named, and even then...), or that they even exist.

As for me, there is so little that I expect government to provide: safety/defense, courts, roads and other infrastructure. I have no desire for a Department of Education, or Bureau of Reclamation, or HUD, or BATF, or Bureau of South Asian Affairs, or Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage...

Maybe others expect a lot of their government, but I think really, most folks just don't know what it does, and how deeply ingrained in daily life it is, in oddly invisible ways.

pearse said...

Can't say that I disagree with you at all. I also think we agree that many times it is the citizenry that is either unwilling or not knowledgeable enough to demand that cuts happen. Fluff is always a tough thing to atack as you state because one man's fluff is anothers essential service

I would also agree that there is a huge problem at the federal level.

Bobby G. said...

Some day these politicos will figure out that you NEVER "rob" Peter to pay Paul...!
(That would also apply to over-borrowing and unfair rising taxation.)