I recently read Laurie Ruettimann’s excellent post at Punk Rock HR on Deficits and Debt and found that I agreed completely with her premise. I left a super-long, hard to read comment to the post (as is my customary practice 🙂 ), and Laurie very kindly suggested that I turn it into a post–so voila! Basically, I don’t think government spending is a bad thing, and here’s why:

I live in Michigan and I see important education, public works, public assistance, public health, etc. programs being cut because lawmakers want to (and know they can) score easy points with a bunch of stingy people who can well afford to pay their taxes but choose to be mad about an expensive painting in the Capitol building or something, and somehow decide that means they shouldn’t have to pay any taxes whatsoever.

Honestly, I think the services we need to pay for and any government waste that is going on are two separate issues and should be discussed separately. As it is, people use (admittedly egregious) anecdotal examples of waste to dishonestly shut down any opposition to their position, so a productive discussion never takes place, especially in scary places like newspaper comment threads. Like, we may all agree on paper that we want to pay for great schools, roads, and services that serve the state’s residents well and attract others to the state. OK, good. Then the fact that a particular bonehead assistant to the department head (or whatever) is wasting money on something (which, let’s be honest, is usually like 1/1,000,000 or less the cost of any real substantive line item) still does not mean that the prioritized programs should not be funded–properly, not with money that doesn’t really exist or with a bunch of symbolic caveats designed only to make it clear that said governmental unit is being “tough on waste.” The two are not really related in my mind. Instead, it means that particular bonehead should be fired or have his budget taken away, or if it is an endemic problem in some department, get someone better in there to clean house.

To my mind it would be better to borrow now, use the money to address some of the situations that are keeping us in this crisis for years at a time (if Michigan works only within what it can immediately pay for right now, then good luck keeping anyone in the state, much less getting anyone else to come here. Of course we have to to some extent because we have a balanced budget amendment. I do not like balanced budget amendments. Anyway). Then pay it back when the situation is better. I would also add that if you can afford to send your kids to private school if you have to, replace your vehicle when terrible roads destroy it, and live in a safe neighborhood (among other things), of course you’re going to feel your taxes are too high because you’re lucky enough not to need any help. To me this is an example of where the majority (reasonably well-off people and those who are making it one way or the other) should not get to decide for the minority (desperately poor people who NEED these services) whether they get to live or die and whether their kids ever get to escape the cycle of poverty with decent nutrition, education, etc. because realistically most do not have that option without some assistance.