The Federal Budget, Part III

Critical thinking is often sorely lacking in any discussion of the government’s money woes. As I discussed in the last post, many fail to recognize the ways in which we Americans can work for the public good without getting the federal government involved. Another thing that bothers me in these debates over the debt is the manner in which intentions tend to overshadow results. I like to call this phenomenon the Orphans, Puppies, and Kittens Effect; if a certain government program has a mission that sounds Christian and noble, you will be painted as a baby-eating, grandma-kicking monster if you subject said program’s books to scrutiny.

This is what the liberals and leftists in Washington want to do with your tax dollars – and don’t you dare question them! After all, they are full to the brim with good intentions.

A recent example: Back in December, internet leftists, encouraged by the likes of Jon Stewart, flew into a frothy rage over the GOP’s opposition to a bill that sought to put in place a program to provide medical care to 9/11 first responders. Many of my friends on Facebook were absolutely convinced that the Republicans just wanted to stiff our 9/11 heroes so that the government would have money to spare to give tax breaks to the GOP’s rich buddies. Of course, the true story was utterly different. As one dissenting senator explained:

One of the most significant concerns about this bill is its continued reliance on the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to administer 9/11 health programs. NIOSH has sent $475 million in grants to New York to pay for health care benefits. Yet to this day, NIOSH, the city of New York and the various health care providers who received grants have failed to tell Congress where that money has gone. For example, Mount Sinai Medical Center has received about $137 million from NIOSH since 2004. Until they can show where that money was spent, it is irresponsible to give them more.

The proponents of this bill say it terminates the current programs and replaces them with one program run by a single administrator. In reality, the new program administrator would still be NIOSH, the same agency that has inadequately administered the program. Without the basic facts about the programs NIOSH administered for the past eight years, it is hard to design an effective program for the future.

In other words, it wasn’t that the GOP wished to deny 9/11 first responders needed medical care. On the contrary, the Republicans only wished to ensure that the money would actually be spent on those first responders. Imagine that!

For my second principle of fiscally responsible governance, I’d like to propose the following: A program’s mission should not grant said program immunity. ALL federal programs should be reviewed on a regular basis and, if necessary, scrapped or reformed. I don’t care if you really, really love the goal of the Bureau for the Protection of Indigent Widows (not a real program, obviously, but there are many existing programs that are similar in intent). If our theoretical BPIW is spending a lot of money and yet can’t demonstrate that these funds are having a genuinely positive effect on the target group, it needs to be cut or restructured in some way. If our theoretical BPIW is inefficiently run, then we need to make it more efficient. We shouldn’t have sacred cows. And yes, this rule applies to the military as well. If a group of naval experts determines that a proposed new destroyer is flawed and ultimately unnecessary, then we need to trash that project too. I repeat: No sacred cows!

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