“I am for a government rigorously frugal and simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplication of officers and salaries merely to make partisans.” Thomas Jefferson
A couple years ago I had a job that required overnight traveling all over the state of Iowa every week. When I could, I usually opted to stay at a local bed and breakfast instead of large hotel. I did this usually to save money for the company, since the rates were usually cheaper and included a full breakfast. So, imagine my surprise when one day one of my co-workers questioned me on my thriftiness, saying “Why not stay at a really nice hotel? What do you care about saving the company money? It’s not like it’s yours or anything”.
And so we have a perfect analogy of the difference in attitude between our elected officials and the average American taxpayer. They think that our money is their money. Unfortunately, unlike our elected officials, we do not have the luxury of raising taxes on anyone else to cover a personal budget shortfall or a bad financial decision. We do the only thing we can: we stop spending. There is no one to bail us out but ourselves. We have a realistic budget, focused on basic needs, instead of wants, and it is time that the government does the same.
I know that we saved some $300 million with the government reorganization bill, and that is a start. However, given the fact that in the last 3 years our state budget has increased over $1 billion, $79 million of budget shortfalls have been filled with one-time stimulus funds, and we have $1.7 billion in debt due to the I-Jobs program that has not created any net-new jobs, the $300 million in claimed “savings” seems laughable. If you went to a department store sale, only to find out they raised their prices to offset a sale discount, would you seriously think that you saved any money? No, of course not. That is what I would call the ol’ bait and switch. How is what politicians are doing any different?
If it was truly about saving taxpayer money, then why was an amendment offering an additional $290 million in spending reductions voted down by the majority party, including removing $92 million in benefits to adult illegal immigrants? Why in the world would Iowa legislators want to put foreign nationals over our own Iowan children? That $92 million alone would have covered almost half the Iowa school budget shortfall. But since this and other savings were voted down, Winterset will see an increase in property taxes this year of almost 13%. Luckily my town will not see an increase this year, but the school’s entire savings will be probably be drained and therefore next year we will see the hike. (I hope for my town’s sake there is no other school financial emergency; otherwise we will have to take out a loan to cover it, which we will have to pay for too). Why would any legislator reject additional savings to the taxpayer? Whom exactly are they representing?
Right now our state and federal governments are spending money they do not have, making our children and grandchildren nothing more than indentured servants to this generation’s gluttony and fiscal mismanagement. Even future accountability provisions are voted down, as we saw recently in the Iowa Senate. Audits to confirm that projected budget savings were realized, sunseting programs in order to force an evaluation of their efficacy, and a constitutional protection of the 99% spending limit (which is currently only a law that been ignored quite regularly by both parties) were all common sense proposals that were voted down by the majority party, including our own Senator Appel. To me, it is best not to claim to be a watchdog of financial accountability and transparency if your votes are inconsistent to that end.
The tax money to which our legislatures are entrusted is not theirs, it is ours. We deserve to keep it because we earn it, and therefore we alone should have the say on how it is to be used. Our income equates to a portion of our precious time, and our precious time is not something that we can get back. Therefore, our money is not a tool to be used to grant political favors. It is not a means to further a political agenda. It is to be used with frugality, with humility, and with reverence to what it represents, staying within the bounds of the Constitution and the will of the people.
Remember, any money that the government hands out (or wastes) always comes from the pocketbook of someone else. There is no magical money tree that they have access too – only the labor of the industrious. We all are required to live within our means (or personally suffer the consequences), and it is time that our government does the same. But, instead of whining about legislative arrogance or incompetence, I propose a solution (other than throw the bums out of course). For any state or federal official that is obviously struggling on how to make and stick to a budget, I am offering to personally sponsor them to attend the budgeting class my husband and I teach here at our church (Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace) to help them out. So, President Obama, Senator Harkin and Senator Appel…are you up for the class?
“I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious” Thomas Jefferson