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Roads and bridges are fine. 700 hammers for the military maybe not.

I worked as project manager for a contractor doing public works at one point. The government (at least in the US and probably everywhere) wastes a staggering amount of money.

Not saying the government doesn't need funding. They do. But they could certainly do a lot more with less.




They need better internal auditors. If you just cut their budget alone, it doesn't decrease waste or fraud. To change the percentage of waste requires accountability for wasting.


And the accountability ends up causing waste. A basic example I've given before is when you can't go and buy the cheapest thing because you have to prove it is the cheapest thing, which you can't do without a review (because people abused this is the past). The end result is that the cost to approve the cheapest option is so high you stick with a more expensive option that is overall worse, but currently considered the best.

Imagine a programmer who has to document what they do every quarter hour of their work day to ensure accountability to auditors looking to reduce waste. They end up wasting more time documenting what they do than you end up saving.


Accountability must come from outside government for it to be effective.


Not necessarily, you just need the internal auditors to have independence and the right incentives.

And actually-enforced penalties for individuals in government who stonewall the auditors because they know an honest auditor would want to reduce their budget.


Also I absolutely hate how people think cutting government income is a good way to cut wasteful spending because it is immediately obvious it doesn't work. It can't work.

We cheered when that scumbag Reagan talked about starving the beast. It was clear that even George HW Bush, Reagan's running mate knew it was a stupid idea. The problem that neocons won't talk about is that we don't have a single preferential way of allocating budget. Imagine we shrunk government income by one trillion dollars. That's the easy part but where will we cut our expenses? We haven't dealt with the difficult problem at all.

Remember that every dollar "wasted" goes to someone. If they are loud and influential, they will probably get to keep their money/credit. So basically the rebalancing brought upon by starving the beast is nothing more than a cash grab by the more powerful more influential over those less so.

I invite anyone who talks about cutting taxes to first come up with a plan to cut government spending. If the spending cut is palatable and can survive the mobs, I am in favor of starving our babies to cut taxes for the wealthy. But we can't put the cart before the horse. No new tax cuts without at least a matching spending cut that we can keep for at least a decade or so.


"we don't have a single preferential way of allocating budget." That's a very charitable way of saying there are no priorities in Washington and there never will be.

I don't mind discussions of cutting the federal government drastically even with overblown threats of riots and unrest. Why continue to prop up a federal system that was never designed to scale up to the size it is and that is out of control? It can't be fixed by any amount of tinkering so just let it collapse back to the original limited powers concept.

U.S. state and local governments do a much better job spending taxpayer money, just revert all these poorly run federal agencies and programs back to the state level.


A major issue here is income inequality. I understand that a part of me says "well, what's wrong with differences in the quality of life between someone living in some town in state A and someone else living in some town in state B.

We can talk about our successes with independent school districts where communities proudly fund their own schools with taxes at rates that they think are the best. Or take local police and EMS or local utilities for that matter. It is glorious when it works as it creates a sense of ownership and responsibility towards a community resource.

I agree with you in broad strokes that we can and should support devolution. However, I assert that we should not do this because our federal government was not "designed" to do this but because it is the right thing to do and it is in all our best interest to do it. We should not do something or avoid doing something based solely on what the system was "designed" to do. We should be willing to make changes to the system as we learn new things. I cringe on the amount of reverence with which we hold our founding fathers. The United States is a well recognized nation throughout the world and we do not need this crutch. (:


It's not a crutch. Separation of powers is a desirable thing because it tries to prevent the concentration of too much power in a body, group, or person. The Bill of Rights and constitution specifically LIMITS the powers of the federal government. America is an experiment in government that is no longer running, but its edifice is still there - which does not scale because it was designed _not to_.

Any power or service the federal government was not designed to own is reserved for the individual states. All the wealth transfer programs, pension plans, and public services we have now federally can be delivered by the states. So yes, there is a "design" there, we're just not adhering to it.

And when it all reverts to the states, then we can have real fights over what's the "right thing" for the state to do and where the dollars go.


The problem with doing income redistribution at the state level is that citizenship is at the federal level. If Ohio decides to have a state welfare system and Michigan doesn't, Michigan's poor move to Ohio and the system collapses.

A good solution would be to create a universal basic income at the federal level funded by a no-exceptions flat tax on consumption, which keeps the federal government simple, and then let the states do everything else.


And having welfare programs in today's America draws the poor from other countries. Not sure how what you're describing is any different, just a different scale. Every year around springtime, hundreds of homeless will literally start a trek from Portland OR to Berkeley CA to get enrolled in their generous welfare programs. What you describe happens already.

You can believe that churches and governments can easily match and surpass whatever the federal government can dish out once economic power reverts to the States.


> And having welfare programs in today's America draws the poor from other countries. Not sure how what you're describing is any different, just a different scale.

The difference is, as already mentioned, citizenship. The US is under no obligation to provide welfare benefits to foreign nationals or grant them citizenship. US states have no equivalent way to prevent low income US citizens from moving there and claiming benefits.

> Every year around springtime, hundreds of homeless will literally start a trek from Portland OR to Berkeley CA to get enrolled in their generous welfare programs. What you describe happens already.

How is the fact that it actually happens supposed to disprove it?


I was just trying to allay your fears of invading hordes seeking the heavy train of benefit heavy states. Such migrations happen today, legal and not. A lot of business owners profit off of the illegals, whose presence is subsidized by government. Very wicked little underclass we maintain, not quite slavery in modern times, but still...

Perhaps when the States have to administer their own welfare programs, it will no longer be profitable for the individual states to shoulder the burdens of hosting the underclasses when neighboring states will not. Sanity might return to the immigration debate, it could be a really good thing.


> Perhaps when the States have to administer their own welfare programs, it will no longer be profitable for the individual states to shoulder the burdens of hosting the underclasses when neighboring states will not.

That was kind of my point. It isn't profitable already. Increasing the magnitude would make it unsustainable. There just wouldn't be any states offering the same level of welfare programs as the federal government currently does.

> Sanity might return to the immigration debate, it could be a really good thing.

Federal universal basic income to all citizens as a replacement for existing welfare would do the same thing. Immigrants who cut the line wouldn't get it (and all the other welfare programs would be gone), which would make living here too hard to be worth breaking the law. Then we could correspondingly increase the number of legal immigrants we accept because we'll have more capacity to integrate new legal immigrants without the people who cut the line.


> It isn't profitable already.

No? I'm glad you caught that. Illegal immigration IS profitable, that's why it continues to happen. The advocates seem to cross political lines too, everyone must be profiting from cheap labor.

I love unsustainable pants-on-fire arguments like this. Any country or state that is being overrun in a truly unsustainable way either ejects the invaders (or does worse to them) or ends up conquered.

> Federal universal basic income

It's fun to imagine how one would tinker with the system, but you're just rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.


I love the idea of a no-exceptions flat tax on consumption. However, our GDP per capita is only about 53k. If we need to extract about $6.3k (a number I pulled out of my ass - this is about the current IRS standard deduction and is about $500 per month), we'd need about a 12% tax on every single financial transaction.

I am afraid this 12% tax will drive a lot of our economy underground forcing us to raise rates. How do we prevent that from happening?

https://www.google.com/search?q=us+gdp


VAT is the usual way. The total tax ends up being 12% (or whatever), but it ends up being a much smaller percentage of the total price at each stage because it's collected throughout the supply chain. And then business customers want to make sure the tax is being collected because they can't deduct the already-paid tax when the item is resold if it wasn't reported by the seller.


How does vat work in other countries? Is it one rate across the country? Do provinces and local government get any of this money? Are they banned from imposing an additional sales tax? I'd think you don't want additional sales tax if you have vat but then you'd lose some revenue for local government.


The simplest way to do it would be to add e.g. 8% to the VAT and then give that part to the state where the buyer lives to use for whatever they like. But there is no inherent reason why states couldn't keep their existing sales tax instead. I mean you never want additional any tax, but the money has to come from somewhere.




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