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Topic: Balancing the budget?
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Mar 4, 2011 10:48AM)
We're been going thru some very interesting meetings at work recently, given the coming of the new fiscal year and some retirements that have caused some rethinking about the business. Oh, yeah, I work for a theatre that's part of a public agency.

To make a long story short, it seems that every time we talk about the budget, the number one priority is to "balance" it, to the point where discussions about providing the services we're supposed to provide always fall into the background. If there's a problem area, the discussion always goes into "balancing" the budget instead of looking at where the problem is and solving it. So it would appear to this observer that the mentality here -- the goal -- is to come out with a balanced budget regardless of whether we are providing the services we're supposed to provide.

Given the recent publicity about our Governor Brown balancing the CA budget, I have to wonder if this way of thinking is prevalent in other government agencies, so I'm throwing it out as a question.

BTW, I do have my own opinion based on nine years of working on architectural projects for government agencies in my previous career, but I'm going to hold off on that until I read some of your comments. ;)
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Mar 4, 2011 12:51PM)
Brown has been completely out of the picture on the news here surprisingly (since our local stations border California and are shown there). Arnold was always on the news. How is ol' Brown doing?
Message: Posted by: landmark (Mar 4, 2011 12:55PM)
The way teachers are being treated all around the country should tell you everything you need to know. The concept of "educational reform" has nothing to do with education. It's all about cutting the budget as much as possible, transferring the money to the rich, and seeing what they can get away with. It looks like as you indicate that it's no different with the arts.
Message: Posted by: gdw (Mar 4, 2011 01:00PM)
Welcome to bureaucracy.

This far to often one of the distractions in government agencies, probably made such a big focus because they simply can NOT keep within their budgets to begin with.

There's also no real connection between their effectiveness in providing their "services," and their budget/funding, when it should be one of the primary factors.

How people think organizations run like this are supposed to actually help people in the end is nothing but insanity.
Message: Posted by: HerbLarry (Mar 4, 2011 01:52PM)
[quote]
So it would appear to this observer that the mentality here -- the goal -- is to come out with a balanced budget regardless of whether we are providing the services we're supposed to provide.

[/quote]

I would have to know what these services are that we are supposed to provide. In my mind Police, Fire, and a Court System is it. A County/area Hospital & Library would be next in line if funds collected could provide them. I think that spending only what you have, that is a balanced budget, is the correct & right thing to do. Either tax more or defund existing programs. I realize people like neither but we gotta realize debt is no good for anyone in California or any other State. THE problem is living outside of your means on a personal & governmental level regardless of what advertisers think.
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Mar 4, 2011 02:19PM)
California has the big bucks. In Santa Clara county they rebuilt all the libraries, not remodeled, rebuilt, and all the highschools got big electronic billboard signs out front and the football fields were all redone.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Mar 4, 2011 02:59PM)
Griftopia

I am not sure if this relates to what you fellows are talking about here but I have just read these two cool eye opening articles here in Rolling Stone from Matt Taibbi about all this scandalous stuff that is going on with money. The same sort of stuff is going on here in England. Although I can relate to the story the USA characters in the plays I don't really know. I am getting this book anyhow.

America for Sale:

An Exclusive Excerpt from Matt Taibbi’s New Book on the Economic Meltdown Our cash-strapped country is auctioning off its highways, ports and even parking meters, finding eager buyers in the Middle East

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/exclusive-excerpt-america-on-sale-from-matt-taibbis-griftopia-20101018

Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?

Financial crooks brought down the world's economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-isnt-wall-street-in-jail-20110216
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Mar 4, 2011 03:41PM)
I've news for ya. If I was California I'd start charging a toll to enter the state. They have those agri check centers on major highways, use 'em. I would also sell advertizing on the side of overpasses and soundwalls. Heck, I'd even sell the rights to San Andreas Fault, let 'em call it AT&T Fault for a couple hundred million a year, if the big one hits it will be great for them "AT&T Fault Hits Los Angeles, Homes Previously Flooded, Burned, and Slid Down Hill Damaged.....Again". I'd name schools after sponsers too, think about it, Apple Elementary, Hewlett Packard High...Home of the Fighting PCs! Why not rent out Browns forehead when he gives speeches? Golden Gate Bridge? Forgetaboutit...try The Google Gate Bridge!
Message: Posted by: EsnRedshirt (Mar 4, 2011 03:55PM)
Why would any company want a part of our education system named after it? Same goes for our highways. I guess a company that sells swiss cheese might see some benefit, but...
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Mar 4, 2011 04:05PM)
I wondered the same thing about traffic reports on KGO and the companies do it. I would be sitting stopped in traffic and they would say "Traffic is brought to you by Smith Industries" and I'd think "well thanks a lot Smith Industries"
Message: Posted by: cairo (Mar 4, 2011 05:21PM)
Here's how to balance the budget: Charge a very high tax on gasoline, cigarettes, alcohol, gun sales, gambling wins; and the budget crisis will be solved. Unfortunately, lobbiests for those industries will never let that happen.
Message: Posted by: gdw (Mar 4, 2011 05:39PM)
[quote]
On 2011-03-04 18:21, cairo wrote:
Here's how to balance the budget: Charge a very high tax on gasoline, cigarettes, alcohol, gun sales, gambling wins; and the budget crisis will be solved. Unfortunately, lobbiests for those industries will never let that happen.
[/quote]

Uh, don't they already have high taxes on those things?
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Mar 4, 2011 05:46PM)
You don't believe very high taxes don't already exist on those things? Why do you include gasoline in with cigareets, alcholol, gun sales, and gambling? Gas is required by people to get to work, school, the grocery store, doctors, you name it. It is not at all in the same catagory as the other items and the simple fact is not everyone has access to public transportation or are with in or capable of walking or biking. Taxing gas any further is punishing the working man, is that your goal?

If you want to tax gambling tax the Indian casinos because the winners are not the patrons, they are not in any casino. There is no way to tax on line gambling because it isn't allowed in the US. You'll not get the guns taxed because they already have a sales tax applied to them and the gun owners will say it is restricting their right to bare arm to pay any additional tax. Booze and cigs? They tax them, at least the cigs (I've no clue about booze) and take into account money not yet collected, people quit smoking, the dollars are less and the states having already spent that money now are in a deeper hole. Well, I guess that leaves gas and goodness know every day people don't have enough problems today without paying an extra buck for a gallon of gas.
Message: Posted by: EsnRedshirt (Mar 4, 2011 05:55PM)
CA budget could go a long way towards balanced by revising the property tax laws so they don't affect corporations the same way as individuals. According to good ol' Prop 13, property taxes can't be raised over a certain percentage annually, so you can't have your rates jacked up 10% a year and get priced out of your home. The base tax rate is reassessed according to current market value when the property is sold. However, corporations tend to hold on to land rather longer than individuals, so Disney is currently paying about five cents a square foot on most of the ground in Disneyland.
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Mar 4, 2011 06:00PM)
Property tax is a real issue there. My fathers house was worth twice what mine was and my property tax was over 6,000 a year and his was under 300 bucks. Makes sense to me.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Mar 5, 2011 10:38AM)
Well, given what I see at work every day, I have to suspect that the bureaucracy itself is probably costing far more than some of these programs and services that keep getting slashed. Of course, for a politician to say let's slash the bureaucracy would be instant political suicide. :)
Message: Posted by: gdw (Mar 5, 2011 11:42AM)
[quote]
On 2011-03-05 11:38, George Ledo wrote:
Well, given what I see at work every day, I have to suspect that the bureaucracy itself is probably costing far more than some of these programs and services that keep getting slashed. Of course, for a politician to say let's slash the bureaucracy would be instant political suicide. :)
[/quote]

This is why I'm so against it, and people call me crazy for it. Yet, they are the ones who insist on continuing to support it, expecting things to actually change.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Mar 5, 2011 11:58AM)
[quote]
On 2011-03-05 12:42, gdw wrote:
This is why I'm so against it, and people call me crazy for it.
[/quote]

No one--and I really think I speak for virtually all of us--thinks you're crazy for being against the wastes of governmental beaurocracy. No one.

We remain skeptical regarding how a large state (or would you suggest getting rid of nation states--by magic, perhaps?) could function without any beaurocratic elements whatsoever.

It's kind of like complaining about taxes. Sure, we hate 'em. But we live off the roads and traffic lights that they bring.

This is my second biggest complaint with Austrian economics (and GDW, don't think that I somehow missed your failure to respond to my biggest complaint, in another thread; apparently you respect me so little that you don't think I have the slightest idea what "Austrian economics" is): who paints the crosswalks? And how do we pay for the paint?
Message: Posted by: gdw (Mar 5, 2011 12:48PM)
That's like asking who designs and makes the bags that your bread comes in, and how do you pay for them.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Mar 5, 2011 04:18PM)
[quote]
On 2011-03-05 13:48, gdw wrote:
That's like asking who designs and makes the bags that your bread comes in, and how do you pay for them.
[/quote]

Right.

It's a good question, in my opinion.
Message: Posted by: balducci (Mar 5, 2011 04:28PM)
[quote]
On 2011-03-04 18:46, MagicSanta wrote:

You don't believe very high taxes don't already exist on those things?
[/quote]
What do you define as "very high taxes"? That is, what taxation rate becomes "very high" in your opinion?
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Mar 5, 2011 04:29PM)
[quote]
On 2011-03-05 12:58, stoneunhinged wrote:
We remain skeptical regarding how a large state (or would you suggest getting rid of nation states--by magic, perhaps?) could function without any beaurocratic elements whatsoever.
[/quote]
Okay, let's focus in a little bit. For instance:

My employer -- the day-to-day office stuff -- is pretty much totally computerized. It needs to be. However, since I've been here, every time something new gets computerized, the work only increases. You not only have to enter stuff into the computers, but then you need to run and print reports that were never needed before, and then enter some of it manually (off the reports) back into another system which creates its own paperwork and storage. So now you need more people to do all this additional work. It's like a snowball rolling downhill.

Then, of course, you need more filing cabinets, you need to support the computers, you need more offsite storage space, and you need a system to keep track of all the paper and all the reports on the paper and all the logs on the reports and all the shredding instructions.

On top of which, the general ledger has about a gazillion different accounts, each one a number with fourteen digits. Every time I see that, I have to wonder if all those accounts are there just because "the computer" makes it possible to have them. When you talk to the people managing the money, you realize that a lot of those accounts are really feeding the same kitty, but yet the accounting people insist that you need to have all of them, and then they add more.

And this is only one small agency.

I'm not saying you don't need a system in place; all I'm questioning is whether all this is really necessary to do the work we're charged with doing.
Message: Posted by: gdw (Mar 5, 2011 05:57PM)
[quote]
On 2011-03-05 17:18, stoneunhinged wrote:
[quote]
On 2011-03-05 13:48, gdw wrote:
That's like asking who designs and makes the bags that your bread comes in, and how do you pay for them.
[/quote]

Right.

It's a good question, in my opinion.
[/quote]

Ok, and, I'm sure it's one you know how to answer. How DO you pay for the packaging for your bread?
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Mar 6, 2011 05:28AM)
Glenn, you realize I'm making fun of you, right? Crosswalks have nothing to do with bread packaging, and you know it. One is a public service provided for safety in a community, and the other is simply part of the package, so to speak. I pay for both, of course.

George, as for focusing in on beaurocratic waste in the computer age, well, there you go and there you have it.

Nothing new, really. Beaurocracy has inherent flaws. That has been long known. Take, for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_Law

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Principle

And I read once a beautiful description of what computers mean to modern society, but couldn't find it. It went something like this:

Computers allow us to efficiently perform work that we otherwise would not have been expected to perform.

I sure wish I could remember the original source.

Anyway, the point is that beaurocracy is a natural, understood, and unavoidable phenomenon. Human beings have their ways. They continue to act like human beings, no matter what GDW, Austrian economists, libertarians and anarchists or other dreamers would like. The only way to truly avoid beaurocracy would be to avoid organization. But avoiding organization would mean at least two things:

1. We would have no bags for bread,
2. We would have no crosswalks.

Now, if anyone wants to get down into the nitty gritty of *how* human beings could better organize themselves (would that be something like "political philosophy"?), then I'm game to discuss it.
Message: Posted by: rowdymagi5 (Mar 6, 2011 07:39AM)
Government run programs are full of money wasting abuse.

Example: I know a lady who is single and just had a child. She lives with her boyfriend. His mother has rental homes and they live in one rent free. She also pays their electric and water bill.

He works in the Coal Mines making $65,000 a year.

Her mother gave her a car and she gives her $300.00 per month for gas, insurance and extras.

Since she is technically a single mom the government gives her over $300 a month in food stamps. Also she gets assistance money to pay her utility bills (that she is not paying anyway)
Oh yea, she is on the WIC program too getting free milk and cheese.

Not to mention she draws unemployment.

She was reported two years ago. Nothing was done by the overpaid state employees.

I work my tail off to get by and they live like royalty.
Message: Posted by: rowdymagi5 (Mar 6, 2011 07:43AM)
My point is that the system is broken. But anytime someone comes along wanting to fix it, the masses start crying because they feel entitled to these government handouts.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Mar 6, 2011 08:35AM)
No I don't think so. It seems to me what you are doing there is giving an example of someone who is apparently committing fraud and calling that the system which it is not. Unless you mean by “the system is broke” you mean the legal system.
Message: Posted by: gdw (Mar 6, 2011 08:56AM)
Stone, I am well aware.

And yes, bureaucracy is unavoidable, but government institutionalizes it, and, as there is no real accountability based on whether or not they provide their services, or provide them with any quality, nor any real consequences when they don't stick to heir budget (they can just tax more, or use more debt,) the bureaucracy remains unchecked.

Such would be impossible in a system where companies had to actually earn their funds, and provide services.
Message: Posted by: landmark (Mar 6, 2011 09:13AM)
[quote]
On 2011-03-05 17:29, George Ledo wrote:
[quote]
On 2011-03-05 12:58, stoneunhinged wrote:
We remain skeptical regarding how a large state (or would you suggest getting rid of nation states--by magic, perhaps?) could function without any beaurocratic elements whatsoever.
[/quote]
Okay, let's focus in a little bit. For instance:

My employer -- the day-to-day office stuff -- is pretty much totally computerized. It needs to be. However, since I've been here, every time something new gets computerized, the work only increases. You not only have to enter stuff into the computers, but then you need to run and print reports that were never needed before, and then enter some of it manually (off the reports) back into another system which creates its own paperwork and storage. So now you need more people to do all this additional work. It's like a snowball rolling downhill.

Then, of course, you need more filing cabinets, you need to support the computers, you need more offsite storage space, and you need a system to keep track of all the paper and all the reports on the paper and all the logs on the reports and all the shredding instructions.

On top of which, the general ledger has about a gazillion different accounts, each one a number with fourteen digits. Every time I see that, I have to wonder if all those accounts are there just because "the computer" makes it possible to have them. When you talk to the people managing the money, you realize that a lot of those accounts are really feeding the same kitty, but yet the accounting people insist that you need to have all of them, and then they add more.

And this is only one small agency.

I'm not saying you don't need a system in place; all I'm questioning is whether all this is really necessary to do the work we're charged with doing.
[/quote]
Remember "the paperless office"?
Message: Posted by: landmark (Mar 6, 2011 09:16AM)
Like Microsoft.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Mar 6, 2011 10:32AM)
I think it would be fascinating for a sociologist (or some other academic entity) to do some research on how bureaucracies develop. Not organizations or governments, but systems that feed on themselves and become ends in themselves. Heck, bureaucracies have been around since the time of Roman Empire (or so the historians tell us), and probably before then, so there has to be a common thread in there somewhere.

One thing I have found over the years, and I find at work today, is that when an issue comes up, you can go one of two ways. You can talk and argue about the "how" and continue feeding the bureaucratic cookie monster, or, what I've learned to do, focus only on the "what" and get the bureaucrats so confused that they very often have to give in. It's a game I play, and sometimes it's the only way I can get stuff done and still keep my sense of humor.
Message: Posted by: ed rhodes (Mar 6, 2011 11:34AM)
[quote]
On 2011-03-06 08:39, rowdymagi5 wrote:
Government run programs are full of money wasting abuse.

Example: I know a lady who is single and just had a child. She lives with her boyfriend. His mother has rental homes and they live in one rent free. She also pays their electric and water bill.

He works in the Coal Mines making $65,000 a year.

Her mother gave her a car and she gives her $300.00 per month for gas, insurance and extras.

Since she is technically a single mom the government gives her over $300 a month in food stamps. Also she gets assistance money to pay her utility bills (that she is not paying anyway)
Oh yea, she is on the WIC program too getting free milk and cheese.

Not to mention she draws unemployment.

She was reported two years ago. Nothing was done by the overpaid state employees.

I work my tail off to get by and they live like royalty.
[/quote]

But you can't get me to believe that they're the norm.
Message: Posted by: gdw (Mar 6, 2011 02:06PM)
May not be the "norm," or majority Ed, but they highlight the very real, very significant problem.
Message: Posted by: landmark (Mar 6, 2011 04:22PM)
If it's not the norm why is it a very real problem? The dollar amount is small compared to corporate fraud. One look at the Pentagon budget should convince you of that.
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Mar 6, 2011 04:52PM)
A few thoughts here, and note that I can't seem to get jack for assistance not that I've really tried.

WIC money is there and at least in California they will give it to pretty much ANY mother. They had more WIC money than people taking it.

If you are getting help from family then you are getting help from family, that doesn't and should effect unemployment and foodstamps or whatever it is called now is based on a formula. The womans boyfriends income doesn't effect most of what she is getting. What I would bet she is doing is putting down the rent she would be paying if she as paying rent, and the question usually is how much is the rent, they don't ask if you are actually paying it. The boyfriend simply does not officially live there so his income doesn't come into play as a member of the household.

Basically what she is doing is not as evil as you think she is doing what is allowed. There are people who go to the food bank, yes I have to go there for food because I'm a broke mo 'fo, who have multiple people in the same house signed up. They have relatives signed up and just say "I'm picking up for my family, my two sisters, and my cousin" and they get supplies for 15 people which equates to about enought to help three people. They also do this at multiple food banks, unless the weather is bad, when the weather is a little bad only those really in need show up.

I'm a bit conservative and I watch the people at the food bank and note that they have cell phones (I don't any longer), smoke cigarettes, talk about their wins and losses at the casinos, and that bothers me more than what the woman described did.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Mar 6, 2011 05:18PM)
Pretty soon every one will have a ration card. And if you do not do as you are told they will cut your ration. Like a job you will be told to do certain tasks.
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (Mar 6, 2011 06:25PM)
[quote]
On 2011-03-04 13:55, landmark wrote:
The way teachers are being treated all around the country should tell you everything you need to know. The concept of "educational reform" has nothing to do with education. It's all about cutting the budget as much as possible, transferring the money to the rich, and seeing what they can get away with. It looks like as you indicate that it's no different with the arts.
[/quote]

"transferring the money to the rich.". All that money the filters into the system from the poor, and the rich just swoop in and take it.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Mar 6, 2011 06:33PM)
Well, I'm hearing that's the way it is, and I happen to agree that in some cases that's the way it is.

So now the question comes up... who's going to put the bell on the cat?
Message: Posted by: landmark (Mar 6, 2011 09:21PM)
[quote]
On 2011-03-06 19:25, LobowolfXXX wrote:
[quote]
On 2011-03-04 13:55, landmark wrote:
The way teachers are being treated all around the country should tell you everything you need to know. The concept of "educational reform" has nothing to do with education. It's all about cutting the budget as much as possible, transferring the money to the rich, and seeing what they can get away with. It looks like as you indicate that it's no different with the arts.
[/quote]

"transferring the money to the rich.". All that money the filters into the system from the poor, and the rich just swoop in and take it.
[/quote]
Then you don't believe in taxes?