Monday, October 21, 2013

How do we stop wasting taxpayer funds?

If we as a nation wish to improve our system of governance, we can't just complain that the budget is overloaded with expenditures; we must get to the root of the problems, make reasoned assessments, and take corrective action. Uniformly slashing allocations across the spreadsheet neither addresses the problems nor corrects the underlying issues that cause the inappropriate expenses. As a society, it is up to us to choose which costly government expenditures violate our social values and to figure out ways to improve the choices we as a nation are making.
Taxpayers undoubtedly can agree that the best way to stop wasting our funds is to make sure that the expenditures actual pay for something productive. There have been two egregious and well-publicized recent cases of abuse of this standard: As projected by Standard & Poors, the recent House-forced 16-day government shutdown cost us more than $24 billion dollars. That shutdown itself was the finale of preceding acts perpetuated by a small faction of extremists in the House: prior to the shutdown fiasco, they had extorted the House to vote 42 times to repeal a law that had been approved by Congress, signed by the President, ratified by voters, and tested in the Supreme Court -- and that was known to have no chance of success in the Senate. That repetitive exercise in futility cost the American taxpayers an estimated* $61 million.

That's nearly $25 BILLION in absolute waste that taxpayers have been stuck with the tab for. Leaders of the House were fully aware that their obstructionist actions could not ultimately succeed. Using taxpayer funds to pay for political posturing is not only a waste of federal resources, its result is fraudulent misuse of budgeted funds. It is time for us taxpayers to put our collective foot down and tell House leaders: no more actions that intentionally result in the absolute waste our tax dollars or we'll charge you personally with the fraudulent use of our funds.

The House extremists who fometed these wasteful legislative tactics are the loudest voices protesting wasteful government spending, yet they insensibly foisted far more waste on American taxpayers than all the "entitlement" cuts they have clamoured for could recover. Whether this is calculated sedition or simply incompetence, the result is squander of resources that could have been applied to far more productive and societally helpful purposes. Such behavior must stop immediately, or taxpayers will have the right and obligation to demand a special investigation into House members' waste, fraud, and abuse of federal funds and the legislative functions they are pledged to carry out.

It is appropriate, necessary, and honorable for taxpayers to insist independent auditors assess the damages and federal prosecutors pursue charges against the perpetrators and co-conspirators.

I wonder... what you think.
* CBS News calculated that the first 33 votes to repeal health care reform took up approximately 80 hours of floor time from the House, or roughly two weeks. The Congressional Research Service said it costs $24 million to run the House for a week. Based on these figures, the efforts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or "Obamacare" in the House of Representatives have cost taxpayers approximately $1.45 million per vote. So far there have been 42 attempts, so that cost amounts to $60.9 million.
Image credit: AARP

Thursday, October 17, 2013

After the Brinksmanship, what next?

First we need perspective:


It's true: The USA isn't the center of the universe. Our universe isn't even the center of the galaxy, and there are so many other far distant points we didn't even know existed beyond the darkness.

The vast distances and innumerable other possibilities humbles the existence of our world and makes me wonder why we few beings on one tiny planet cannot find it in our hearts to work together to care for what we have. Our Earth is a fragile ball in a huge empty space; our world is the only thing enabling our lives to exist let alone thrive. We need sanity in our approach to the Earth.

We can see the Earth far more clearly today than any time in the history of humankind. We know how small our planet is; we know how thin our atmosphere is layered around its surface; we know our oceans flow together; we see our limited land masses. And yet we abuse its air and water and damage our lands as if it doesn't matter to us all. We need to husband our resources more carefully so that the Earth can continue to support us all.

Even more than preserving our planet, we have the unique ability to help one another. In all the far reaches of space, we have no one else to turn to. We alone, from our perspective, have the knowledge, tools, and technology to improve our lives and the lives of countless others on our planet. Yet we can't even honor those in proximity with the concern and support they need to triumph over their struggles.

Where there is hunger, we could fill bellies with healthy nutrition. Where there is suffering, we have the ability to soothe the struggles and build the capacity for better living. Where there is war, we have the capacity to enact truce and enable peace. Where there is ignorance, we have the knowledge to educate and share learning that can further the wisdom of the Earth's people. We need to join together to empower humanity to further individual potential and enable our global community to reach beyond today's imagination to create the future we all yearn to live.

But first, we have to learn from our mistakes and stop repeating failed historic choices:
  • We have to see that depriving those who need our assistance to rise above poverty is shortsighted and foolish: it deprives not only them but in the end everyone of their capacity to help improve our nation's productivity and success.
  • We have to see that choices are complex and personal and that making decisions for others keeps them dependent and unable to take their own right actions: limiting anyone's ability to choose wisely for their future also limits the betterment of humankind. 
  • We must realize that momentary additions to the bottomline today subtract from the richness of possibility in the years ahead whereas investment now in improving potential will yield rewards for generations to come.
  • We need to help each other to become all they are capable of being so that we can all become capable of becoming more than we are now.

What's next requires us to see the bigger picture and act from that perspective of humility and sanity. We need to see our possibilities in the context of the larger whole. We need to realize that exclusionary practices prevent us from working productively together to improve today and create a better tomorrow for all humanity. What's next is change.

Trying to preserve what history has tried over and over without success will only yield more poverty, more destruction, more conflict, more suffering. The only way to improve the results is to do not more of the same faster but totally different. What's next is new possibility only if we learn from our mistakes and choose a better path, together.