When I mention our sow, of course I mean the United States Government. I believe we can truly thank our elected federal officials for doing such a fantastic job of bringing home the bacon. If one were to visit www.cfda.gov, one would find the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.
We Did It to Ourselves?
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance website proudly illustrated for the electorate is a pie chart at which Americans should marvel at the work done for them by their elected officials. This pie chart will inform you of “…a full listing of all the Federal programs available to State and local governments (including the District of Columbia ); federally-recognized Indian tribal governments; Territories (and possessions) of the United States ; domestic public, quasi-public, and private profit and nonprofit organizations and institutions; specialized groups; and individuals.”
The pie chart (May 1 2009 updated) lists:
34% Department of Health and Human Services
21% Department of Agriculture
19% Department of the Interior
12% Department of Education
11% Department of Housing and Urban Development
Bringing Home Too Much Bacon?
An agency search at the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance website yields 63 agencies. While some make perfect sense for their existence, others will definitely make you wonder. Further searches reveal 1893 programs listed and 3229 Regional offices. One might argue the point that this is a demonstration of both government excess and patrician payoff. I’m sure you can list a number of recent anecdotal examples government excess and squander-style spending from your own circles of friends, colleagues, and clients.
Perception is Reality
While I’m confidant that our Federal politicians could, via double-speak, justify every agency and every program—they would have to, or why do these agencies and programs exist? However, I believe that most reasonable and curious Americans would do a double take at the way our government spends our tax dollars.
Even if many of the agencies and programs are justifiable, which I believe they are not, there is still the ingrained perception of the American citizenry of gross government waste, incompetence, and protectionism. Does this mean that everyone that works for the government is incompetent? Of course not! I have met, and worked with a number of committed government employees that are fabulous at their jobs—many of the supervisors—not so much.
The Important Issue
I have stated in my seminars and workshops for years, “If you hire a lousy employee, you deserve who you hired.” The same goes for elected officials. We have done it to ourselves. Just to mention a few examples: single issue voters, uninformed voters, ignorant and uneducated voters, voters in denial, voters expecting reciprocity for their vote, exclusive-party voters, and (my favorite) self-interest exclusive voters.
At some point a society has to stop sewing more nipples on the community sow. Our sow can only allow so many to suckle before the sow goes dry. It appears to me that such a day may be soon approaching.
Our Responsibility to Give a Portion
I received a response from Paul Knecht about a recent comment I made. Paul states this about giving, “There is a rule. It was taught to the earliest Jews and is still taught to those who follow Judaism and Christianity. The landowners and their gatherers were told to not harvest all of the crops but to leave some standing so the poor, widows and foreigners could harvest also. There is an expectation that the haves share with the ‘have nots’”.
While Paul makes an excellent argument, the question is how much to leave behind for the poor to harvest? My argument is not the idea of voluntarily leaving a little for the poor but rather the fact that the various taxing entities (Federal, state and local governments) in theUSA pilfering an outrageous percentage of one’s crop. Paul’s example, to my knowledge, does not state exactly how much to leave, and I cannot imagine a farmer leaving 30-40% of their crop for the poor to harvest. That’s the “total rate” at which the greater majority of successful Americans are taxed today.
The Pendulum’s Swing
Should a society help those that are truly and honestly in need? I believe so. However, just because one stubs their toe, they do not need a $900 ambulance ride to the hospital—a ride and an emergency room visit that is paid by the local taxpayers. In a society, when the benefits to the needy outpace the earning capability of the able bodied, something is truly wrong. The sow definitely has too many nipples.
The question becomes, “How did we get where we are?” Perhaps the answer is that for many it was easier and more expedient to write a check to the needy than to lend them a helping hand? Then it was necessary to pay people to organize the handling of the checks. Then a time came when the checks were expected. Today, those checks are demanded!
At some point one has to stand up and say, “Enough!” At some point one also has to say, “Enough” to the politicians. Politicians see their job as being responsible to “bring home the bacon.” Do You? Perhaps the time has come for Americans to no longer give to those that only ask and refuse to do?
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.