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Waste and Inefficiency

Waste and Inefficiency

I have decided that I will no longer vote for any politicians who say they will fix the budget by eliminating waste and inefficiency.

It’s not that I’m in favor of waste and ineffeciency. It’s just that I’ve heard that argument so many times that I think I finally clued in to what it really means.

When a politician says he wants to trim waste and inefficiency, it’s usually an answer to a question about budget problems. No one wants to raise taxes or even talk about raising taxes; that makes people clutch their wallets ever closer to their hyperventilating chests.

So when a member of the press says, “How will you deal with schools? How will you deal with the budget? How will you pay for all the wonderful things you want to do?”, a lot of Republicans and Democrats alike will use this line.

“Well, I’ll cut out waste and inefficiency, and that’s how we’ll balance the budget without raising taxes.”

How many times have we heard this one? I’m not even going to bother naming specific politicians because so many of them resort to this dodge.

And if you’re a politician, and your opponent uses this line, it’s not like you can really go out there and say, “But I’m in favor of waste and inefficiency!”, because of course no one is in favor of that. And if you go out and agree with him, that there shouldn’t be waste and inefficiency, then you look like a copycat. (Better to just let the line hang out there, unanswered.)

But there’s a basic flaw with the whole idea. Balancing a state budget by trimming waste is like losing your job and trying to make up for it by clipping coupons and buying generic toilet paper.

Just picture it. The guy comes home and says, “Honey, I lost my job, but it’s ok because we’re going to cut out waste and inefficiency!” And then he starts running around turning off the lights when they’re not needed, and cancels the cable and pretends that will solve the problem. But the rent still needs to be paid. And the bills still keep coming in. If this family has a lot of money, this approach will appear to work for a little while until the money runs out.

And so it is with state and federal budgets. You can trim and trim but the money eventually has to come from somewhere. We are past the point of living on our “extra money” (an oxymoron if I ever heard one). We have trimmed and sliced and pared. Kids are having to pay for their bus rides to school, and all kinds of other things that they used to get for free back in the good old days when the Big Bad Evil Government paid for more things like music classes and sports teams and driver’s ed and what have you.

So when some politician tells you he’s going to trim waste and inefficiency, what he really means to say is this: “I won’t raise taxes, I won’t even talk about raising taxes, because then you won’t vote for me. So instead, when I get into office, I’ll try to take money from one program or another to pay for stuff. This will spark a lot of arguments over money, but nothing will get settled, and then we can all point fingers at each other about what went wrong. Nothing will get fixed and the whole crippled machine will lurch on like before; but I’ll have a safe and secure job for the next few years, and then I can say I didn’t raise taxes!”

So, yeah. I’m done voting for anyone that uses this tired old line. Whatever your party.