Sustainability: The New Requirement for American Government

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A brilliant read, from a man deeply involved in government-funded infastructure projects.

Sustainability.    Should this be the new guideline for the new Congress in January? I think so and for many good reasons.

Look at how the Government spends our hard earned money! And this applies to the Federal as well as State, County and City. They pour thousands, millions, billions and now trillions into pie in the sky programs only to have them fail five years later. What do they do then? They argue that the reason it failed was because we did not pour enough money into it. So they pour another couple of hundred million or billion into it. And be sure they will be back for another cash injection in a few years time.

Why? There is no sustainability built into these projects. And why is that? The answer is simple. If the politicians proposed a bill or measure that had true long term cost built into them, there would be lynchings on the steps of the capital building. Rather, all they do is project (That is a fancy way of saying guess) how much it will cost over say the next five years. By then it will be someone else’s problem to sort out.  And it will be the American Tax Payer that has to pay for it all over again. These programs and grand schemes that we are burdened with are never planned for the long term. There is no sustainability built into them.

All the politicians aim at is getting their pet project passed into law with enough money allocated to it to get it off the ground. Later they can cry for millions and billions more to keep it going.

Where does this leave you and me? My friend, we are paying through the nose repeatedly for the same failed results each time. Currently we are in debt to the tune of about $100,000.00 for every man, woman and child. And that debt is based on what we know about. And there is so much we don’t know about yet.
Click here to read the whole article!

Here is an example: Schools. In Los Angeles County they are spending about $28,000 per year per pupil. The dropout rate is over 50%.  There is no way that any school district can sustain that sort of wasteful spending. But it gets worse. Most of the students in Los Angeles County come from low income families that pay NO tax at all. This means a huge financial burden is placed upon businesses, property owners and the state has to kick in a large amount of it. Oh by the way the state is broke! So the state has to look to the federal government for assistance and the federal government is broke. So who does the feds go to for assistance? YOU, ME and foreign governments like Communist China for a loan. Yet here is the real deal breaker. Even with the assistance of businesses, state, federal and Communist China this sort of spending is NOT SUSTAINABLE! This is but one example and there are hundreds of thousands of examples to choose from. We cannot keep spending like its 1999. Hell, its 2010, the party is over and we need to clean up the mess.

We need for our elected officials to start working under new guidelines. Guidelines that demand that every dollar spent on every new law or grand scheme have verifiable sustainability built into them. If we can make this change, we will have made the biggest single impact upon how this country is governed since this countries founding.

Example: Freeways and highways.  If a state or the federal has a proposal to spend $10,000,000,000.00 on new roads and bridges for 2011, is this sustainable? Will the construction meet the needs of the area it is to be built in for the next ten years? Twenty years?  Currently the plan is for a highway with two lanes in each direction. And how long would that plan meet the needs of the area? How about requiring that the plan to meet the needs of the area for the next 25 years with four lanes each way rather than two? The cost would be only slightly higher to do so but would prevent waste in a few years time when they have to return and tear out half the road in order to expand it. This is the reason so many Americans are stuck in construction-caused traffic jams every day. The original road was built to meet the needs of the area today with no provision for the future needs of the area. In other words it was not sustainable.

Sustainability should be the guideline for all spending of tax payer’s money. By doing so we could cut out the single most wasteful aspect of funding our countries needs.

Currently our system of government allows city, county, state and federal governments to Project how much revenue they will bring in for next year. This is why so many city governments are going bankrupt. It would be exactly the same if you or I projected (guessed) how much money you or I will earn next year and went ahead and spent it today. Now I have a pretty good optimistic imagination! I project that if all goes like I think it should I will make a lot of money next year! I might as well as go out on a spending spree today! That is how our governing bodies spend our tax dollars. They guess how much tax revenue they will get from you and I next year and spend it today.

Is that sustainable? No it is not. How about city, county, state and federal governments spending only the actual money that they have? No more borrowing from next year but rather spending only what they have in the till? That would be sustainable. We could all live with that.

You can drive through just about any town or major city and see the results of a lack of sustainability. Public housing projects are falling apart because there was no allocation of maintenance. Roads falling apart because they built it to handle only 5000 cars per day when the actual load is 12,000 per day. Schools are falling apart because the money for upkeep is siphoned off for other uses.  A Department of Motor Vehicles building is built on some of the most expensive real state in town with less than half of the required parking spaces causing a parking nightmare in the surrounding area. Why is it we are spending trillions annually with no allowance on what it will cost to properly sustain all that we are doing?

Is this how we as a nation serve the common good?

There are some hard times ahead for everyone. There is no easy way out of the mess we are in. And the first action in the right direction needs to be better accountability for the money spent. Our government needs to ensure that all schemes, plans, ideas and initiatives are sustainable and accountable.

We need to demand that our elected officials change the way they spend our tax dollars.  We need to demand that they:
  • Stop projecting estimated revenues and start working within real budgets based upon the current year’s or last year’s tax revenues.
  • Ensure that all projects are sustainable; that they meet the needs today and tomorrow. If they cannot meet the sustainability requirements, they are not voted on or proceed.
  •  Review all current projects and determine if they are sustainable at the present time. If not the project should be canceled or scaled back.
  • Require department heads to work within their budgets. Period.
  • Require that all levels of government retain 1% of the proven tax revenues each year in a secure reserve that can only be tapped with approval of 2/3 of the registered voters in the case of an emergency.
  • Stop the issuance of bonds for non critical projects.
  • Require a maximum permissible limit of money borrowed by a government in relation to last year’s tax revenues.
If we demanded the above changes at each level of government it would drastically change the financial footing of our country for the better. Would it hurt? Yes. But not doing so will hurt us far worse and for an indefinite period of time. We have to stop borrowing money from our children. We have to get America back on track and quickly. And we have to do so in a way that is sustainable.

I urge everyone who reads this to contact your representatives and demand that they take corrective actions that are sustainable and lasting. We don’t need simple knee jerk reactions. Rather, we need for them to start laying down the foundation blocks for a strong and sound America.  We need them to make the tough choices to get us back on track as well as move us onto higher ground for the future.

We need Sustainability for America.

John S Hutchinson
john@krausservices.com

2 comments:

Euripides said...

How about federal term limits as a solution? Then we won't have career politicians trying to bribe their own particular lobby with pork projects and entitlements that never end.

Anonymous said...

Incompetence also is rampant in government programs. A couple years back Caltrans wasted a large chunk of money because designers drew a road going right off a cliff because they were too lazy to go the actual building site and see the land layout for themselves.

Now they're expected to implement sustainability? Ya, maybe a few decades down the road.

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