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Guest column | Bob Ryan

A primer on why government is in such a mess

Can we pause in the ongoing, escalated dialogue about budget-cutting, repealing laws and other belt-tightening to consider how we got to this point in the first place?

May I boil down the process of government spending to its most simplistic form? This is a primer in connecting the dots.

First, there must be an expressed need for the proposed act. This can be initiated by citizens supporting a cause, by office hopefuls seeking votes, by incumbents striving to keep their office, more often by special interest groups organized and represented by lobbyists, or knee-jerk reactions by any and all of the above to some perceived need. In virtually all cases, the crusaders are a distinct minority, but minorities deserve a voice, too.

A bill, act, proposal (call it what you will) must be translated into legislative-speak so we have the first cost of hiring attorneys to write the proposed legislation. Of course, the need for computers, administrative types, lots of paper and printing comes next and that's before it reaches the legislators for consideration. If it fails, we still have those start-up costs.

But if it passes, untold copies of the enactment must be prepared for all interested parties like voters, public record, media, etc. And then costs begin an exponential explosion because any and every new law at any level of government automatically requires more jobs to put it into motion, maintain it, police it and perpetuate it whether it is rules for growing snap peas or funding for jet fighters.

Somebody or a lot of somebodies encouraged this act-to-law process but hardly ever are the proponents large in numbers. Yet, we all must bear the costs of the supposed need brought to life by a small cadre of interests.

The antithesis of an enacted law is repeal of an existing law. How often, at any level of government, have you heard a politician place his future on the line by advocating repeal? Once it is in place, it has the potential for a long life for all the bureaucrats who manage, enforce and administer the law in question. A politician proposing repeal is similar to a kamikaze pilot. He is finished.

And then we have the electorate, which most often resembles children with a bag of candy. Once you give it to them, it is near-impossible to take it away. The law is the candy. Repeal is the take-away.

Ask civil servants to kick in more for their benefits like private sector workers do? Get lost! No one is taking back part of my candy!

That bag of candy began slowly sometime in the past and generations of politicians have added to it so now it is a suitcase full of candy. And now you want the civil servant or the recipient to downsize to a duffel bag?

Enter the aggrieved — the government employee who has a retirement plan far superior to any in the private sector (the real world) — who stages virtual war on the unfortunate leader who clearly sees the need to peel away some of the grandstanding enactments of prior years that created the suitcase. The leader is pilloried in the media as Ebenezer Scrooge. He might be a Democrat, but more often a Republican, but no matter. He/she is blamed for devastating the bureaucratic kingdom, the world of entitlement that we all underwrite with our tax input.

Bob Ryan lives in Bayonet Point.

A primer on why government is in such a mess 07/02/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 1, 2011 11:25pm]

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