Thomas Sowell on the politics of enacting budget cuts:
Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency’s budget were cut, what would it do?
The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.
The example was deliberately extreme as an illustration. But, in the real world, the same general pattern can be seen in local, state and national government responses to budget cuts.
At the local level, the first response to budget cuts is often to cut the police department and the fire department. There may be all sorts of wasteful boondoggles that could have been cut instead, but that would not produce the public alarm that reducing police protection and fire protection can produce. And public alarm is what can get budget cuts restored.
The Obama administration is following the same pattern. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, released thousands of illegal aliens from prisons to save money — and create alarm.
Rather than scale back on some the many lavish, completely unneeded government projects that we are currently undertaking along with their many employees living on the public’s dime, officials seek to cut programs in the most visible way possible in a way that will cause the most inconvenience to the public. For example, rather than question the need for multiple official White House Calligraphers who make a combined $277k per annum, they choose to cut back on air traffic controllers so as to purposefully cause airport delays. Voters fly on planes, they don’t read hand written invitations to White House soirees. Not a single person in America is benefitted by having multiple calligraphers employed by the federal government (besides the calligraphers themselves); millions benefit from having air traffic controllers doing their jobs (though whether having them be federal employees on government payrolls paid for by taxpayers – rather than private employees paid by those who fly on planes – is a question unto itself). So naturally the government decides, in the face of unavoidable
cuts growth in spending increases, to cut air traffic controllers in the hopes that the public will cry for the government to continue unabated.
2013-03-06 » madlibertarianguy