Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Eh, I’m sure there’s quite a bit of waste in government spending, but I’ve become so disillusioned with the way that argument has been presented in our political discourse for a variety of reasons.

A) the US military has dragged its feet to become audit-compliant many years after it was mandated to do so, and there’s been a lot of reporting on corruption among military leaders and defense contractors. It seems like one side only cares about government spending when it applies to social programs like Medicare. Just look at the deficit increase in the current administration. They don’t actually care about balancing the budget. It’s just a political hit when the dems are in office.

B) the government never gets credit for projects that are completed early and under budget, which does happen. Michael Lewis of Moneyball game wrote a whole book about this titled The Fifth Risk. How are we ever going to be happy with how the government uses our taxes if we don’t recognize the wins they do accomplish? All we hear about are the screwups, and we don’t hold private industry to that standard because they have a clear goal: to make profit. Turns out that trying to keep a society functioning is expensive and not sexy work. Big surprise.

C) government takes on projects essential to society that private industry is unwilling to take on, which often come with price tags that the public loves to balk at. Take the Hanford nuclear site (also featured in the Fifth Risk). The US nuclear program failed to properly dispose of nuclear waste after WWII, and it was discovered to be leaking a few years back. This waste zone threatens the water supply for millions of Americans and is costing many billions to clean up. If there’s no competition to perform this work, how do we expect it to cost any less than it does?

Government waste is constantly berated as this existential issue in our society, but government waste didn’t cause the Great Recession, nor is it driving what’s looking more like another recession here in 2019.

Sure, I have no doubt there are ways to improve the efficiency and reduce wasteful spending, and I’d love to see better financial reporting around government spending like USAfacts.org. I think technology will play a major role in informing citizens on how tax dollars are spent, but I can’t just jump on the “government is wasteful” train because I’ve been deeply unimpressed with most of the alternatives provided those people.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact