Fixing Government

We have had more than a few conversations about this at the dining room table over the past year.  The Trump budget is destructive to many of the fundamentals of our culture but how do we keep those programs that are so important and have a healthy balance sheet?  Non-profits can have healthy balance sheets too.

The concept of trickle-down economics doesn’t work for any of the people who are supposed to get the trickle.  It just works for the top.  Elected officials are by most accounts career politicians.  They are most interested in getting re-elected and passing bills that help their constituents although these days we are seeing more interest in just staying in power.

One of the many reasons I am so sorry that Mike Bloomberg did not run for the job of President is that after 3 terms of being the Mayor of NYC he understands Government budgets and he also understands business budgets.  They are very different things and few people really get both.  The only constant is the word budget.  Those of you that believe Trump gets it too are wrong as this is a man who bankrupted his own company four times and US banks refused to give him any more debt.  Says something right there.

Slash and burn is not the answer.  Careful thought to each program from how it is managed, where the money is going and that includes military and everything in between is needed.  Technology and infrastructure which includes our roads and the way our Government is run, from a bottom-up approach is what is needed.

When companies are purchased that are bleeding cash and not making the impact that they could be making, the owners (sometimes it is new owners) take a look at every aspect of the business and make the appropriate decisions to keep the culture yet make it profitable.

Perhaps I am being naive but our elected officials need to be able to not have knee jerk reactions based on who is in power but to take a long look at how our Government operates in a smart way.  Bloomberg is the only person I know who is capable of that.  I so wish that there was a few people who fall under this category.

Almost 20 years ago, Fred and I attended an intimate event of around 15 people in the tech world and 20 senators including the Clintons.  It was a dinner roundtable discussion about what we cared about and how our “new” community could obviously become more involved in politics.  Fred talked about the same thing we are talking about today, smart immigrants to come here and work in our companies and the insanity of our immigrantion policies.  I talked about education as I was chairing MOUSE at the time.  I remember hearing more than a few Senators talk about how they can make the changes today yet nobody was talking about the long tail.  It was about keeping their jobs, aka keeping them in power.  I brought up that nobody in their jobs makes a decision that will be the right ones for the long run and that is the problem with Government.  Not sure they wanted to hear that but this table of young people in a new industry were extremely “un-political” in their suggestions.

In the past few weeks, I have thought a lot about that dinner.  If the people sitting around that table had made the smart decisions vs the decisions that kept them in power (aka treading water) then perhaps our country would be in a very different position today.  Everything is short-term in Government.  It is too bad we don’t have a leader who thinks about the long view.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I think about this a lot.I have three items that keep me going:-decide to not submit to the very real fear that these madmen get us killed.-support financially those that are doing the best job of fighting to resist.and getting ready to-add my skills as a market and community maker to some of the new generation–a lot of them women btw–who have decided to enter politics.Doing what I can is important.

    1. Gotham Gal

      *decide to not submit to the very real fear that these madmen get us killed*….noteasy.

      1. awaldstein

        no kidding.

    2. JLM

      .I am not trying to do any missionary work here, but it is often useful to ground one’s opinions in fact.President Bush launched the war in Afghanistan and during his administration 575 US soldiers were killed.President Obama campaigned with an eye toward ending the war in Afghanistan. In fact, so hopeful was the world at his promise of ending the war, he received the Nobel Peace Prize before he’d even unpacked his bags in the White House.During his eight years of continuous combat in Afghanistan, 1728 Americans have been killed and the country is on the verge of being returned to Taliban control.I am not worried about the “mad man” getting us killed as neither you nor I will ever be on the firing line. That is just hyperbole fashioned to serve your own purposes. It is not intellectually sound discussion.Having been a professional soldier, I preach the reality that armies lose fewer men when on the offense than when on the defense. If one thinks about it, that makes sense. The force on the attack knows how things are going to play out.The Obama administration, famously, embraced “leading from behind” and that has delivered the Middle East (and Afghanistan) into a cauldron of chaos.We will be best served by approaching North Korea, ISIS, the Taliban, Russia, China chin to chin with a clear understanding of what we are willing to fight for. As an example, I am not willing to fight for Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, or Montenegro.This assessment is not about politics. It is about military science and foreign policy.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  2. Guest

    The best way to fix government is to shrink it and reduce the power it has over our lives. This also reduces the incentive that lobbyists and special interests have to buy off our politicians. If politicians have less power to dole out favors, access to them has less value (leading to less corruption). Short of this, my sense is other fixes will be cosmetic or ideologically-biased (I like it when my team abuses power; you like it when your team abuses power) but, in the end, the nation counties to decline. Btw, people like yourself are not undertaxed. Your lowest statutory rate (long term capital gains) is in the 36-37% rate between federal, state, and local. For short-term capital gains and cash, your tax rate exceeds 50%. Of the money you don’t pay in taxes today, the statutory Estate Tax rate on it is 56% (40% federal + 16% NYS). You’re basically looking at 37-50% tax rate today and 56% of what you save being confiscated from your grave after your body turns cold, for a total marginal tax rate in the 75-85% range. These are statutory rates. If that is too low, what is an appropriate rate?

  3. JLM

    .No fair minded person would try to argue that one or the other of the parties is “good” at governing. The genius of the Founding Fathers in providing for a working but divided government overwhelms me the more I consider it.Anyone who thinks the Dems have the answers has only to look at the first two years of the Obama administration when the Dems held the levers of power. No bueno. The horrific American foreign policy of the last eight years joins that period of inadequacy in a gilt frame.The world can take a look at the current situation with the Republicans seemingly having the same advantage. The “repeal and replace” legislation (the work of Speaker Paul Ryan, not President Trump) is not a journeyman like effort and will fail.For God’s sake the House had more than five years to consider what a replacement would look like and they have had since November to work it out. They are still working on the underlying foundation principles — are they going to provide for pre-existing conditions or not?The Republicans like to fight with their most ardent opponents — other Republicans. If the Dems were smart (OK, I know that’s an absurd premise) they would step aside and let the Republicans fight with each other.There are those who suggest that the President wants it to fail, so his hand in shaping the legislation is more determinative. Not sure I believe that.What is true is that government is way too big, way too intrusive, totally out of control, way too expensive, and toxic. It is not governing anything if one’s measure is a positive impact on the lives of citizens.Pres Trump has gained the support of a segment of America who believe the system is rigged against them. They are, of course, absolutely correct. He, astutely, recognizes he can reduce the size unilaterally and he is hard at work doing just that.What I hope for is the dismantling of our Jabba the Hutt government as a prelude to determining exactly what the proper role of gov’t should be.As an example, I don’t think gov’t should be a mechanism to take the taxes from a Tulsa plumber and use them for the arts in NYC. [I use an extreme example to make the comparison as stark as possible.]There will be other voices on that but in a confrontation between the common folk v the elites, the outcome of the 2014, 2016 elections is pretty damn clear.The smallest, least expensive gov’t we can fashion is likely our only real hope.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  4. JLM

    .The President’s budget, which is required to be submitted to the House in the beginning of February each year, is an indication of policy.Only the House can appropriate money and only when appropriated can it be spent.A President has some incredible flexibility in that he can receive an appropriation and decide not to spend it. The Congress can then pass a law — not a budget, a definitive law — directing him to spend the appropriation.One thing is certain — no President’s proposed budget will ever survive the budget process in the House. None. No Congressman is going to allow a gov’t function in his District to be shut down. This is why we have four times as many military bases as we really need.What a President can do is to refuse to hire people and, thereby, control the size of agencies and, thereby, influence their total expenditures.President Trump immediately reversed the Obama Exec Order making all waters in the US “navigable” and therefore under the jurisdiction of the EPA. It was a shameless power grab which put rancher’s stock tanks under EPA regulation which forbade their creation as they “dammed” navigable waters. An idea so nonsensical as to be laughable.Pres Trump reversed that order, restored the original definition of navigable orders, and has planned to slash the EPA budget as they will no longer need to regulate or oversee rancher’s stock tanks. This is a credible move that has nothing to do with the water quality of the US or any threats to navigation.A perfect example of rampant and unnecessary regulation.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  5. pointsnfigures

    http://johnhcochrane.blogsp… I liked this advice a lot. If one isn’t reading Cochrane, they are missing out.

    1. awaldstein

      I will read this, thanks.