Government Spending in the New Millenium

The Federal Government is behaving like children in an elementary school class who are learning about the legislative process by putting together a make-believe budget. Unfortunately, the is no adult to interrupt them and explain that in the real world adults can’t spend twice as much as they take in, and that quadrupling the debt over the next ten years is very bad.

At least Tucson’s politicians made the effort and balanced the budget. They did it with spending cuts, and a collection of new taxes, and tax increases, that were disparate enough not to raise anyone’s ire. They ranged from a new tax on hotel room stays, to an increase in the city environmental (trash) fee – a fee that both Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich condemned when they ran for the offices they now hold. Both Trasoff and Uhlich are up for re-election this fall. I doubt that they have anti-trash fee planks in their current platforms.

It is disappointing that they did not adjust spending down to match the revenues without increasing the tax burden. I would like to see both spending and taxation reduced. In fact, I have an idea.

I was poking around in the Tucson City budgets of the past few years, looking for inappropriate spending. What, you may ask, does “inappropriate” mean? Well, I suppose that there are those who cannot conceive of inappropriate government spending, but the rest of us would probably have some definite ideas concerning it. For example, who would support the City of Tucson opening a local chain of restaurants, or the United States of America buying up most of the domestic automobile industry? These are extreme cases, but they make good examples.

I think that most would agree that city/county government should supply police and fire protection, some basic infrastructure (roads and sewers), and conflict resolution (courts). Then it should just get out of the way.

So I saw this category in the budget called “Outside Agencies”. These are organizations that are not part of the City government; they administer themselves, yet they are funded in part by the City of Tucson. These are mostly charities that provide services under the city’s “Human Services Plan.” They seem to me to be, for the most part, good agencies, with good people, who perform good works. The City of Tucson should stop funding them. The weaning should begin immediately.

I can hear it already, “Whoa! Dude! You said they do good work! Why shut them down?” Actually, I have no desire to shut down any service organization. I do, however, think it inappropriate for the city government to get in the way of the citizens charitable giving. To whom one wants to offer charity should be an individual’s personal choice, and no one should be forced to support a charity not of his choosing. These organizations will do just fine with direct voluntary funding.

It is easy to fall into the delusion that doors will close, windows will be shuttered, and society will collapse if government does not fully fund everything. When I heard that the City canceled the Fourth of July fireworks display to save fifty grand, I assumed that it was over. Silly me! Within a day of the announcement, individuals and local businesses threw so much money at the City for the Fourth of July celebration that they not only had enough to proceed, but it started a fund for next year! If individuals and businesses in our community will fall all over themselves to save a fireworks display, do you really think that they would drop the ball when it came to youth programs, domestic violence prevention, or programs for the elderly?

Look at it this way; if there is an interest among the people to support the work of an organization, they will support it directly. If there is little support among the people, and the government represents the people, how can the government justify funding that organization? Gotcha!

The bottom line difference between free choice support and government tax money support is force. Charity freely given benefits both the donor and the recipient. Money taken involuntarily, ultimately by force, and given to an outside agency, changes the relationship between government and the citizenry. It also inhibits character development by relieving people of adult responsibilities.

It is un-American for a government to point a gun at a citizen and tell him which charities he likes.