Thursday, September 22, 2011

It is Not Just About the $16 Muffin

Why the $16 muffin is no joke, and according to Matt Welch, the reason is that it doesn't stop there.
[T]here is no such thing as government spending without gobs of disgusting waste, graft and corruption. It's all cooked right into the system.

And therein lies the problem with government spending. In the government's rush to do so much (even laudable things that the government must do) there is very little incentive to government officials to be frugal. Furthermore as Welch points out:
Managers whose budgets do not depend on customer satisfaction and who do not face competitive pressure in the marketplace, will not, on balance, spend their money wisely. Vendors selling to those managers know that price matters much less than it does to, say, Wal-Mart.
Say what you want about Wal-Mart--their aggressive focus on keeping costs and prices down works. Maybe, just maybe, Congress should be hiring some of those folks to manage the budget. Just saying.

But I digress. The fact that the Justice Department is spending $16 on a muffin or $8.00 on a cup of tea sounds like small change. To the federal government it is. But the more important question is, would you as a taxpayer pay $16 for a muffin? Not me--I balk at paying $16 for a steak sometimes. An even more important question would be, would that Justice Department manager pay $16 for a muffin if it was his/her own money that she was spending? Almost assuredly not.

Therein lies the problem with government spending, they don't treat the money that is spent as if it were their own money. Until everyone who draws a government paycheck starts to treat their budget as if it were their own money, you will not see any change in behavior. It won't matter if it is at $16 muffin, a $500 million loan guarantee or $50 billion on Medicare waste, fraud and abuse.

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