Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can reduce many barriers that stand in the way. At times, money can be the solution to our problems, but it can also be the cause or provide a convenient cover of the cause. Consider the budget process, where elected officials complete much of the appropriations in the light of the public, but exactly how and what the money spent is kept in the darkness of the bureaucracy. As our national debt continues to rise, it may be time to start shedding light beyond the numbers and know what typically goes unnoticed.
In the midst of these public debates, political leaders voice strong concerns over the level of proposed cuts or new spending. In reality, our children, grandparents, neighbors, or others will neither perish from seeking greater efficiency nor will future generations be hindered by increased outflows. Given the increase in analytics and technology, policy makers should be able to make reasonable cuts and investments that keep our national spending in a sustainable level, compared to economic growth. Looking beyond the numbers to find cost savings and operational efficiencies should be a common sense approach to reining in big government.
Consider two areas that draw plenty of attention at any level of government, education and social safety net spending. Changes in allocations draw the attention of many lobbying groups, such as teacher union, social advocates, and others. Setting aside the rhetoric that surround the discussions, rarely does anyone look beyond the numbers. In both areas, programs fail to serve the public interest, despite large public spending at all levels. Outside of the box thinking can go along way in changing the effectiveness in both areas.
The public should consider how much of an impact is spending on the outcome of either area. For both, funding is a significant and important aspect to consider. Furthermore, how effectively are we spending the funds is another relevant question. In education, the United States spends more per student than any developed, emerging, and undeveloped nation, but the system is declining and inconsistent. Since the start of the War on Poverty, there really is little to show for the funds spent and programs enacted.
If past funding increases did little to improve performance, funding increases will do little in the future, by itself. More money will simply go through the same channels. In education, funneling to unions and other channels with little left for the student. Same for poverty programs, with some minor impact to the recipient. Essentially, the cost of education and social safety nets increase, but students are not better educated and impoverished citizens not better off.
The focus should be on how are the departments charged with administering policy in these areas handling such funds. Is it business as usual or do they seek innovative methods and cost savings efficiency? Giving them the benefit of the doubt, some bureaucrats probably do, but the public needs to ensure so. Simply seeing the bureaucrats request more appropriations without changing anything from the status quo does little to ensure that taxpayers receive the best value and society is better off.
In both areas, there are things that can be done to protect public education, but achieve cost savings and standardize the cost and quality of education. Additionally, there are improvements that can be done to make social safety programs transformative forces of changes. Some may require initial increases that may pay bigger dividends in the future. In future content, ideas on these areas will be discussed.
After an election strongly against the status quo, elected officials from either party should consider shedding the business as usual approach to government, in favor of seeking efficiency and greater effectiveness. The political establishment of both sides take turns shifting taxpayer funds toward their political pet projects, but little positive impact is made. There can be better ways to spend money and achieve our societal goals.