America is in trouble. Unemployment hovers around 10 percent. We are trillions of dollars in debt. Enough money, in fact, that it becomes impossible to say that it is simply the result of the mistakes of a few. There is no one specific person whom we can blame. Being trillions of dollars in debt indicates prolonged poor judgment on the part of our elected officials, not the result of one congress, or one presidency. Each fiscal quarter seems to reiterate that we are not out of it yet.
With the banking collapse, America got closer to complete economic failure than anyone is truly willing to admit. And yet our politicians constantly bicker, point fingers, and shift blame. They barrage the American public with facts and figures, math manipulated to support whatever they are arguing today.
When Bush was in office, Democrats lamented that the government was wasting money on frivolous wars and unethical foreign policy ideals. Now that Obama is in office the Republicans bemoan the wasting of millions in art endowments, the teaching of evolution in schools, and universalized healthcare that will result in “death panels.”
Simply pointing the finger at one party, presidency, or congress is not the answer. No matter who gets elected, someone is wasting exorbitant amounts of money. And yet, we still have Americans who are starving, senior citizens who cannot get their meds, war veterans whose benefits are being cut, and God forbid we talk about the horrendous state of our education.
There is simply not enough money to go around. Not enough money to go around given our current spending system, rather. Not enough to feed, clothe, and support our own. But as recently as 2010, our budget mandated six hundred and sixty billion dollars to discretionary spending. A whole fifth of our budget is based on governmental discretion, unreported, unspecified spending that Congress has delegated as essential but fails to specify why, or even where, our money is going.
Therefore I propose we kill two birds with one stone by creating a government agency tracking exactly where our tax dollars are going. It will provide jobs to the unemployed middle class and supply a degree of transparency to an exasperated constituency.
Not to devolve into a debate over laissez-faire capitalism in conjunction with government oversight and the right balance therein, but between 1933 and 1936, President Roosevelt reinvigorated the economy with his New Deal. This plan for a government agency tracking every dollar and cent each American pays in taxes would be a modern version of that reinvigoration.
The major differences would come in the type and scope of the tentatively named New New Deal. FDR’s New Deal created government jobs and protocols that provided jobs predominantly to the industrial and farming sectors. However, our economy has evolved. Whereas we were once blue-collar factory workers, we are now dominated by white collar, better educated, middle management types. Our economy has shifted from production to oversight, from factory workers to accountants. Therefore, instead of hiring men and women to build a national highway system, we must hire the accountants to alleviate unemployment rates.
The second difference is scope. FDR made the government pervasive in our economy. This plan would not extend any government power. In fact, the only people benefitting would be the American public. The question arises, however; what of those unemployed who are under-qualified to work for a government agency? Those people were hit as hard, if not harder than the American middle class.
Recently McDonald’s, the restaurant chain, held a national hiring day hoping to fill fifty thousand positions nationwide. A million people applied to work for a fast food chain, some of them as nothing more than a fry cook making minimum wage. If there is a competition for such a low-paying job why should we focus on the white-collar individuals for this New New Deal? The answer is simple: to eliminate them from the job pool.
No, creating a government agency that would predominantly be hiring from the once-middle class will not directly employ those individuals who don’t have a college degree, or even a high school diploma. But it will eliminate the more qualified competition. And in an economy where jobs are scarce, and competition is fierce, a little hope is what is needed.
We exist in an information age. The average citizen can know more about a person simply by typing their name into a search engine in fifteen minutes than they could derive from two hours of face to face conversation. Even the government is advocating transparency, albeit of the citizenry. Not to delve into the relative merits and constitutionality of the Patriot Act, but I would hazard to say that this current government knows more about its constituencies than any previous American government. Therefore it is hardly unreasonable to ask that the citizenry know as much about its government than ever before.
I am not asking to know which Congressman is having an affair, or posting shirtless pictures on Craigslist, although I seem to be getting that information anyway. I am simply requesting that I get a tax return with a report that specifies exactly what my money went to. Every dollar, every cent, where did it end up? Is it a case of ammunition to a soldier in Afghanistan? A month worth of pills to a senior citizen in Florida?
Maybe that level of specificity is too much to ask, but is asking for more budget transparency in our government too much? Especially given the pattern of poor fiscal decision-making they have exhibited in recent years? In the age of information, where knowledge is power, the American people know surprising little about where their tax dollars end up.Powered by Sidelines