The article on government waste by Adam B. Summers, columnist with the Southern California News Group, spells it out clearly: “The federal government wastes taxpayers’ money in thousands of ways, large and small.” Among the examples he gives is the $3.1 billion the Federal Railroad Administration has made available for California’s “doomed” high-speed rail project. He then goes on to describe how the Energy Department has wasted $450 million on a clean energy project, now six years behind schedule, on which ground has yet to be broken.
However, with Mr. Summer’s next revelation, I did a double take. He discloses that the IRS spent $12 million on an archiving system which was never used in any way. The implication is clear; this branch of government is not functioning efficiently. I then scratched my head as I contemplated whether we want this particular governmental organization to be efficient. And more to the point, with the many funded projects which allocate taxpayers’ monies for functions thoroughly antithetical to the desires of most rational persons, perhaps waste is a desirable quality. Consider, for example, a massive federal program established for the purpose of providing every elected official in the nation with a 6-figure lifetime retirement benefit together with full family health care. This is an activity I’d never want to see carried out. In this case, the less efficient the operation, the better for us all.
Let me now share my personal bias on the government’s use of those funds collected from me as a taxpayer. As long as the money is in my pocket, it’s rightfully mine to spend. Once it passes to the tax collector, it’s rightfully the government’s to spend. For all practical purposes, I have no say in how it’s used. Though I may choose to criticize from afar, there’s nothing much I can do about it. Thus, they may waste it as they wish or apply it effectively if they’re able. But what really matters is that I use whatever money is mine to keep with frugality and discretion. The government may blow what it chooses; it’s far more important that each of us conduct our own financial lives wisely.