This month, a library book was returned to the New Bedford Public Library in Massachusetts. The book was 99 years overdue. The title of the book “Facts I Ought to Know About the Government of My Country”.
Had only we the electorate had access to this book for the past century; we might not be in our current predicament. A more informed electorate certainly would have elected more effective and prudent representation.
I took this title to heart and figured there were plenty of things about my government that I did not know. In fact as I looked over a composite of the US budget by department, I recognized the agency names, but what the department really did was a mystery. I chose the US Dept. of Agriculture a.k.a USDA, with one of the heftier budgets, and dove into their yearly filing of how they use their budget and measure success.
First observation, it was a really well put together document. They clearly wanted people to know how they spent their money, why it was important, and how they were going to measure effectiveness.
The amount of the budget was surprising to me. About $97B in 2009. That seemed like an awful lot to protect the integrity of our food supply. But as I thought of all the food we consume and our population size, it occurred to me how enormous the task must be to make sure it’s all safe.
Then I noticed something that surprised me. About 2/3 of the budget, or $62B, was a government entitlement program for nutritional assistance. Also known as Food Stamps.
Let me be clear. Civilized nations should not let their citizens go hungry. All communities should make basic nutritional assistance available leveraging public and private sector resources to feed people in need. But it is staggering to me that there is $62B worth of hunger in the US?
For a cynical on govt. guy like me, it’s was a red flag of inefficiency. No way do we have a $62B hunger problem in America. And if we did, is giving away $62B of free food the best way to solve the problem? How about hiring folks directly to do something valuable for others? I know its very FDR but its better for everyone. Pay them, and they can buy their own food. How about hiring community organizers to match up restaurants and other food services that have extra food, with soup kitchens and faith based orgs so they can distribute existing food without waste? I refuse to believe that we could not solve this problem for much less money, in a better way.
Anyway, I learned that our government takes the easy way out, always. We give people fish because it’s easy, it only cost tax dollars. We don’t teach people to fish because that’s hard work, and takes outside the box thinking. We don’t keep our budget balanced because that’s even harder. Pass the problem along to the next guy.
Whether you agree with my comments or not, I encourage you to dive into the budgets of our government agencies. Its time we all learned the things we ought to know about our government, and started solving problems like hunger, healthcare, and education in ways that don’t involve borrowing more money from China.
Guest Blogger – Jeff Hine