Everybody wants to balance budgets.
For politicians, it’s become the way to show that you’re serious, responsible and looking out for the future.
It even gives you a chance to demonstrate your common sense.
If there are too many items in the budget, you just have to cut programs until the red ink goes away.
It seems like such a simple issue.
Any struggling household has to keep their budget in line.
So why can’t the government abide by that same principle and make the tough decisions about spendng?
Well, the choices just aren’t that easy.
In the course of debate, people seem to forget that some government spending is an investment in the future.
Its true that there is waste, organizational redundancy and bureaucratic inefficiency here and there in the system.
The mistake comes when we think that the majority of the government’s discretionary spending is somehow misplaced or superfluous and easy to cut to make a political point.
When a business buys facilities and equipment or increases their inventory, they are making a worthwhile investment that will increase their future income.
Yet the government programs that invest in long lasting improvements seem on their way to becoming the baby thrown out with the bath water.
Let’s start with education.
Well-educated children will grow up to form the backbone of a skilled workforce that is competitive in a global economy.
It starts in public school with a strong basis for all children and continues through the years with grants that make higher education accessible to underprivileged students.
Unfortunately, everything from literacy initiatives and technical training to scholarships and grants are indiscriminately slashed in the budget proposed by Republicans in the House of Representatives.
Despite economic fluctuations, more education still translates to a higher salaries, qualifying more of the work force for high-skill jobs any country looks to attract.
There are certainly reforms that could be made to the teacher tenure system to improve the quality of our educators.
But cutting funds for early childhood education and increasing class sizes will negatively affect children’s educational development.
Research on new technology and energy sources allows America to stay at the cutting edge of new industries and continues to improve our standard of living.
Especially given the turbulence in the Middle East, initiatives to break our dependence on foreign oil are becoming increasingly important, whether through expanding alternative energy like wind turbines or finding safer, more responsible ways to tap into domestic reserves of natural gas.
It takes a little while for new technology to get off the ground, but as the new products and services spend more time on the market, technologies improve and prices fall.
However, some industries with high startup costs need a little push to get started.
For an industry like wind or solar energy, nearly all the costs are incurred in building the facilities at the beginning, with minimal maintenance necessary afterward.
Once again this is a cost that is paid up front but pays off in the long run, as the industries become profitable enough to stand on their own.
Often, the drive to shrink the public sector gets used as a political football.
It becomes an opportunity for tough talk or to take on programs that politicians oppose.
Putting aside the politics, there are valid concerns about the size of the budget.
However, any and all cuts have to be made carefully, considering the potentially devastating impacts of cutting too deeply.
Although hard economic times make many people get out the budget ax, the truth of the federal budget can be much more complicated to solve.
In the midst of a frustratingly slow recovery, it’s important to preserve and augment the institutions that can promote future growth.