by Michael Cloud
One governor announces a 20% budget cut.
Another governor proclaims a multi-billion dollar spending reduction.
A third governor says that his proposal will save taxpayers a whopping billion dollars.
Should we break out the champagne? Is government spending truly going down? Will these governments get smaller?
Magicians perform many illusions with sleight-of-hand.
Big Government politicians do it with sleight-of-mouth.
The first governor is cutting 20% off the top of a $3 billion increase. The budget will go up $2.4 billion this year.
The second governor is taking $4 billion dollars off the top of a $9 billion spending increase. State government spending will go up $5 billion.
The third governor got a lower interest rate on his state’s $30 billion debt. The lower payment “saves” $1 billion in interest, while freeing up $100 million a year to expand government “social services” and hire more government workers.
Big Government got bigger.
But all we hear from the Big Government politicians and the news media are stories of shrinking tax revenues, spending reductions, and program cutbacks.
How do they get away with this? How do they make it look like government is staying the same size – or getting smaller?
Big Government Adjustments and Comparisons
Here are a few things they do.
1. Adjust the Government Budget for inflation
If last year’s state budget was $20 billion, and inflation was 5%, and this year’s budget is $22 billion, they can argue that “adjusted for inflation, this year’s spending has only gone up 4.5%.”
This might seem reasonable and fair – except for one thing.
They do not adjust Taxpayers’ Income for inflation. If your family income was $40,000 last year, if you didn’t get a pay raise this year, and if inflation is 5%, then you are $2,000 poorer this year.
Adjusted for inflation, taxpayers are losing 5% this year – while government is gaining 4.5%.
Tax producers get gouged – while tax consumers benefit.
Whether Big Government politicians or the News Media call the government spending adjustment “constant dollars”, “cost of living”, “indexing”, “static purchasing power”, or something else — where is the same adjustment, same treatment, and same consideration for productive, hard-working taxpayers?
2. Compare the Government Spending to the economy
“Our state government spending is X% of our state’s Gross Domestic Product – in the bottom half of all state governments. We’re committed to fiscal conservatism and limited government.”
“During the last 10 years, our state’s Gross Domestic Product increased 108%, and state government spending only rose 79%. Government is taking a smaller share of a growing economic pie.”
What does this have to do with whether government is big or small? With whether government authority and power is growing or shrinking?
3. Compare this Government Budget to other Government Budgets
“We’re in the bottom half of all state governments in terms of state spending. We are committed to limiting government.”
“We’re in the bottom half of all state governments in terms of per capita spending.”
“Last year, our state spending was the 13th highest out of 50 states. This year, we’re down to 20th – pretty close to average.”
They can compare the whole budget or any part of it to other state budgets.
Does our tax burden lighten because that of others grows heavier? Are we better off because they are worse off?
The Weight Watchers Test
Tired of Big Government sleight-of-mouth on government spending and growth?
Want truth-in-labeling in politics? Full disclosure?
You won’t find it in the newspapers. But you will find it at Weight Watchers.
Weight Watchers is a wonderful organization that uses honesty, common sense and tried and true experience to help people lose weight and get healthier.
Suppose you weigh 300 pounds – and come to Weight Watchers to lose weight and get healthier. They’ll give you great information and support – to help you slim down.
But they want you to be honest with yourself.
What did you eat – today? What exercise did you do – today?
Then the Weight Watchers Test: Get on the Scale: How much do you weigh – today? 300 pounds?
For a week or 2 weeks or a month, you’ll make your own decisions about eating and exercising. You’ll probably log what you do. You’ll come to meetings. You’ll learn and share. Support and be supported.
Then the Weight Watchers Test: Get on the Scale: How much do you weigh – today?
290 pounds? You’re moving in the right direction. Making progress.
310 pounds? You’re moving in the wrong direction. How can we help you turn this around?
Weight Watchers is honest.
They will NOT adjust the scale so you can lie to yourself and others.
They will NOT justify your weight by telling you that on the moon you would weigh 50 pounds.
They will NOT condone sleight-of-mouth weighing cons and comparisons: “Well, my 4 closest friends started at 300 pounds like me, but now they weigh 330 pounds, while I only weigh 310 pounds. So I’m really 20 pounds lighter.”
“Because obesity is rapidly increasing in the United States, even though I gained 20 pounds, I’m much closer to the average weight than I was a year ago.”
Weight Watchers wants you to be honest with yourself.
Get on the Scale: How much do you weigh – today?
Are you heavier or lighter than last time? Is your weight going up or down?
Apply the Weight Watchers Test to government spending.
Put government on the Scale: How much did it spend – this year?
How much did government spend last year?
Is government spending higher or lower than last year’s spending? How much? Is this department’s spending higher or lower than last year?
How much higher or lower is government spending than it was 10 years ago? How much higher or lower is this department’s spending than it was 10 years ago?
Is government bigger or smaller than it was last year? Is this department bigger or smaller than it was last year?
How much bigger or smaller is government than it was 10 years ago?
How much bigger or smaller is this department than it was 10 years ago?
The Weight Watchers Test of government lets us know where we are, which direction we’re moving, and how fast we’re going.
The Weight Watchers Test of government frees us from sleight-of- mouth and political illusions.
It offers us the facts, the truth:
Are we moving toward bigger and bigger Big Government — or getting closer and closer to individual liberty, personal responsibility, and small government?
Copyright 2000 by Michael Cloud