One of the unheralded benefits of moving is that you take stock of what you own and get rid of things you don’t use anymore. Congress moved to Washington, DC in 1800 from Philadelphia and hasn’t moved since, never getting the chance to do this kind of house cleaning.
Many companies use the process known as “zero-based budgeting” to control costs and ensure that zero or low value projects don’t continue to use company funds. Zero-based budgeting means that for each budget year, every dollar to be spent is justified, not only the change in spending from the prior year. Our Federal Government does not do this, and in fact often refers to planned reductions in the growth of spending as a “cut in spending”. If we each managed our businesses or our households this way, we would likely quickly run into financial problems.
So what would happen if we zero-based budget the Federal Government? The Commerce Department has over 40,000 employees, and I’m sure that they do many worthwhile things. But can any one really say that each of these employees justifies their tax spend today? I’ve been active in the business world for over 35 years and I don’t really know much that the Commerce Department does. My wife has been active in Public Education for the same amount of time and yet when I ask her what the over 4,000 employees of the Department of Education do, she can’t really give me a good answer.
A majority of Federal expenditures go to “mandatory programs” (those required by law) like Social Security and Medicare, and the Military. I’m not suggesting that cutting a few employees at the big Federal departments would solve our national debt or “right-size” our ever-growing bureaucracy. But the mind-set of zero-based budgeting would serve our country well, as at the core it is a prioritization process as much as a budgeting process. Zero-based budgeting isn’t only about spending less money, but spending all money on the highest value things. It would be nice to see elected officials and non-elected Federal employees think like this, do you agree?