Budgeting For Dummies

My wife and I were so excited when we bought our first home back in the 1970s, just a few miles west of Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls.   We hadn’t been there more than a month and were outside in the yard, raking leaves.  Suddenly we saw a huge plume of thick, black smoke rolling out of the base.

“What the heck is that?”  We looked at each other, and guessed that a plane must have crashed and exploded.

We looked in the newspaper the next day, and watched the TV news, anticipating a story about the mystery explosion at the base.  But there was no report.

Still curious, a few days later I asked a friend who worked at Malmstrom, “What was that big cloud of smoke at the base all about?  Was there a plane crash?”

Puzzled, he said nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.  Then he said, “Wait a minute, was that Friday?”  I said yes.  He said, “Oh, that’s normal.  On the last day of the month, they always pour their excess jet fuel on the ground and burn it so they get their full allocation for the next period.  They call it fire fighter training.”

It’s common knowledge.  The way budgeting works in every government department is thus:  you get what you got before, plus a little more.  Whether you need it or not.  Whether your department is functional or not.  Whether the program is still needed or not.  Whether we have the money or not.

Is it any wonder our governments are bloated, inefficient, and ineffective?  Can you imagine any family or business running like this?

Our US Senate has not even bothered to write a budget for over three years.  Didn’t seem to matter much, did it?

I can give countless other examples of the idiocy of our government budget process, but I’m sure you have plenty of your own.

Rick Hill, Montana candidate for governor, really got my attention when he said he would work to implement “Priority Based Budgeting” if elected.  It didn’t get much of a reaction in the press, but I think it is the singular most significant promise I have heard this year by any candidate for any office.

Imagine if Hill’s common-sense idea were implemented at all levels of government.  We would find thousands of government buildings and other assets no longer needed, agencies who compete inefficiently with each other to provide the same services, and buildings full of desks full of people whose purpose became obsolete long ago.

There is no excuse for the laziness of our elected officials, who shirk their oversight responsibilities for the myriad of government agencies and departments.

If elected, Rick Hill and Mitt Romney and other elected executives have a golden opportunity before them: they can press the RESET button.  It might work like this:

  • CITIZEN RESET – Every citizen who receives an entitlement (other than social security) has one year to re-apply for program qualification.  Are you receiving disability?  Let’s make sure you are still disabled (or ever were).  Are you on unemployment?  You will be required to show that you are actively making yourself available and employable.
  • GOVERNMENT RESET – Every department has one year to justify its existence, demonstrate and quantify the value it offers taxpayers, and request its first zero-based budget.  The executive will require legislative oversight that is meaningful, detailed, and transparent.  And all payments made by the government will be audited against the budget.

Using the data management capabilities that are commonplace in business today, fraud and waste in government are easily preventable.  In spite of their promises, our elected officials have never even tried, and there is no time like the present.

Oh, and all government employees will be required to read “Budgeting for Dummies.”  There will be a quiz.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Zero-based budgeting,
according to Billy Preston
(gotta love the hair!)

Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You gotta have somethin’
If you wanna be with me

Nothin’ From Nothin’ – Billy Preston

Why Do Liberals Hate Romney?

Ask any liberal why he or she doesn’t like Mitt Romney.

You likely won’t get any reason based on policy – most liberals don’t do the homework required to articulate any policy position.  The main complaint I hear is, “He’s just another rich white guy, who got his money by taking advantage of poor people.”

A few will say they just can’t support him because he’s a Mormon.  And now, after the debate, some say Romney is a liar, although anybody who looks closely sees a straight-laced family man, and the accusations are based on what his opponents claim about him, rather than anything he has said himself.

Throughout history there have always been rich people.  Always will be.  Admittedly, some people became wealthy by taking advantage of others – including many public officials.

Harry Reid, for instance, came from very humble beginnings.  He never held a private job, choosing instead a career in politics.  He is now one of the wealthiest members of Congress, on the modest salary of a public servant, leaving a slime trail of corruption behind him .

Ask any liberal why he or she likes Harry Reid.  Again, you likely won’t get any reason based on policy.  They just like him.

Barack Obama is also wealthy.  Liberals love him.  He’s a rich, black guy.  He was briefly employed in the private sector, but his legal work mainly centered on government-related issues.  He made some money writing and selling two autobiographies which were successful because of his involvement in government.

So, liberals.  Do you dislike Romney because he is rich?  No, Obama is rich and you like him.  Do you dislike Romney because he is white?  No, Harry Reid is white and you like him.  Do you dislike Romney because he is a Mormon?  No, Reid is a Mormon, too.  And rich.

Maybe liberals dislike Romney because they now think he is a liar.  Well, no, that can’t be right – they love Bill Clinton, and he was impeached by Congress for lying.  Oh, and he is rich.  And white.

Some say liberals vote for the candidate who promises them the most stuff.  I pray for the future of our kids if it’s true.  That’s just immoral.

I have no problem with a person becoming wealthy.  In fact, deep inside, I think even most liberals believe in the American Dream.  What is important, though, is how a person becomes wealthy.

I rather like the idea of having a leader who has built wealth with his own skill, judgment, and hard work, and especially if he helped others achieve wealth and success.  We need leaders who possess economic skills and don’t need to enrich themselves via government.

Why does that bug liberals so much?

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I had the privilege of meeting
David Clayton-Thomas a few years ago –

a great musician and a very, very nice man

Yes, the strong get more,
While the weak ones fade.
Empty pockets don’t ever make the grade.
Mama may have, Papa may have,
But God bless the child that’s got his own!
That’s got his own.

God Bless the Child – Blood Sweat and Tears

The New “Misery Index”

Remember the Misery Index?   The simple formula – unemployment percent plus inflation percent – was created by an LBJ advisor and used for a while as a campaign tool.  Jimmy Carter set the record of 21.98, in June of 1980.  I remember those days – we were forced to turn down our thermostats and wear sweaters, drive roller-skate cars made of tin foil and wait in line for rationed gas, and pay 18% interest on our mortgages.   For you youngsters: no I’m not being sarcastic – it’s the truth.

The Misery Index was rendered useless in more recent times when the Federal Reserve decided to artificially hold interest rates to zero to hide the extent of our economic crisis.

US Economic Freedom Index

But there still is an indicator of how well our nation is doing for its citizens, and it compares us to other countries: the Economic Freedom Index.  It’s a broader measurement of each nation’s citizens’ well-being, measuring such things as property rights, freedom from corruption, limited government, regulatory efficiency, and open markets.  The aggregate is an indicator of how easy, or difficult, it is to do business and make a living.

While other nations move up the scale, in the last few years the United States has slid down.  Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous state of communist China, has moved up to number one.  Singapore, Australia and New Zealand follow close behind.  Canada is number six. Norway, the darling nation of liberals, is number 40.

According to the Heritage Foundation:

The United States’ economic freedom score of 76.3 drops it to 10th place in the 2012 Index. Its score is 1.5 points lower than last year, reflecting deteriorating scores for government spending, freedom from corruption, and investment freedom.

What would it take to get us back in the leadership position we were accustomed to?

Restoring the U.S. economy to the status of a “free” economy will require significant policy changes to reduce the size of government, overhaul the tax system, and transform costly entitlement programs. By boosting growth in the private sector, such freedom-enhancing policies are the best hope for bringing down high unemployment rates and reducing public debt to manageable levels.

Seems to me that’s what Romney and the conservatives are proposing. The other guys? Well, they would like us down there with Norway. Or Uganda. It would be more fair that way.

If the Misery Index made us cry in the Carter years, our declining  Economic Freedom Index under Obama should have us reaching for a XXL hanky.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Take a minute for this fun clip –
a 60’s garage band classic:

And when the sun comes up
I’ll be on top
You’ll be way down there
Lookin’ up

96 Tears – Question Mark and the Mysterions

Romney: Why Are We the Fed’s BITCH?

Those of you who have followed Rockin’ On the Right Side (thank you!) through its infancy know that my main concern is our nation’s fiscal viability.   No, make that fiscal survival.

And you know that Mitt Romney was not my favorite presidential candidate.  In fact, I was solidly in the Cain camp in the early going, as he led the charge against corruption and the crazy growth in our bloated federal government.   9-9-9!   Sadly, Cain was taken out by a dirty Chicago-style maneuver, one of many ugly tricks I have watched in horror in my virgin year of full-contact politics.

So when Romney filtered through as the last Republican standing, I, like many of my brethren, fell in line, knowing that anybody — Elmer Fudd, Curly of the Three Stooges, Rodney Dangerfield – ANYBODY would handle our national piggy-bank better than Barack Obama.

Last time around, we conservatives held our noses and voted for John McCain.  I hoped that Romney would not be as oderiferous.

And then, last week, Romney picked Ryan.  That told me he is serious about tackling THE BIG PROBLEM: the debt, deficit, and economy.

And now, Romney says “Heck yes, let’s audit the Fed.”  WOO HOO!  He really does get it!

I know, my man Cain didn’t think a Fed audit was necessary.  And Ron Paul – bless his heart, he is so right on so many issues – was just not viable as a world leader.  But he was SO right about auditing the Fed.  The damage done by the Federal Reserve from 2008 through today will be required reading for economics and history students for generations to come.

Let’s not stop at an audit.  Let’s figure out who these guys are, who they work for, who profits from their actions, what possible benefit can come from holding interest rates to zero, how watering down the value of the US dollar by printing fiat currency is a good thing, and . . . why the entire free world is their BITCH!

Mitt Romney – Paul Ryan.  There may be hope for this nation after all.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Sometimes you just gotta ROCK!

Bitch – the Rolling Stones

Paul Ryan – Honorary “Old Bean Counter”

Today’s selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate is encouraging to me.  Not because I have any great insight as to which candidate gives Romney the best chance of beating Obama this fall – I don’t know anything about the art of politics.

What I do know is that our nation’s greatest problem is the state of our economy – the debt, the sagging GDP, the drop in productivity, the unemployment rate, declining personal wealth and income, and the inability of our government to change its failed fiscal policies.   If we solve our economic problems, most of our other problems will solve themselves.

On this blog you’ve heard me opine about how us “Old Bean Counters” could get things straightened out.  I feel like Ryan is one of us.  Not so much old, but he is definitely a Bean Counter.

He stands alone as the only person in DC able to produce a do-able budget that points to a brighter future (although I would advocate a more aggressive turnaround).  He knows that any successful business – or government – must be run by the numbers.  Not by feelings, or wishes, or diplomacy, or hope.

Ryan has shown that he is practical, realistic, and optimistic.  He is able to cut to the chase and make a decision.  He knows how to hold people and processes accountable through controls.  Our government is no different from a business – Dollars In, Dollars Out.  Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.

From the somewhat benign position of vice president, Ryan would not be able to make sweeping changes on his own.  But the fact that Romney chose him indicates to me that Mitt “gets it”.  He is a realist, and he knows that straightening out the economy must be top priority.

So in addition to his veep candidacy, I would also like to hereby nominate Paul Ryan for the lofty position of “Chief Bean Counter”.  We need ya, buddy.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

‘Cause he’s oh, so good,
And he’s oh, so fine,
And he’s oh, so healthy,
In his body and his mind.
He’s a well respected man about town,
Doing the best things so conservatively.

A Well Respected Man – the Kinks