Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A question

Over the past 30 years, Gallup has occasionally asked people the following questions, "of every dollar that goes to [the Federal government; state government, or local government] how many cents would you say are wasted?" How would you respond to these questions? Also, how would you respond to the questions, "of every dollar earned in revenue by private businesses what share do you think is wasted?" or "of every dollar raised by non-profit organizations what share do you think is wasted?" Finally, provide some context for your answers by discussing how you define waste?

This is a very loaded question that already implies that a percentage of government spending is wasteful in some respect. A libertarian or perhaps a Republican might respond, every damn cent! Government is inherently inefficient and wasteful, and any expense is unneeded unless proven otherwise. Someone from a point of view far left might say, none! Democratically elected government is the highest form of leadership we have; any amount spent ultimately benefits us as consumers and citizens.

I don't think I could respond to this, because its just a terrible question. Do I have enough information about government spending according to my value of 'waste' to nail down to the penny the waste of every tax dollar? No, maybe never.

My response to how much spent by every private business is waste, is little to none. The fact that a business most likely operating on the margin simply exists implies that they understand well enough what is waste and what is not. And for non-profits, well, waste in terms of what? They take money rather than make money, and thats exactly the point. If NPR was a for-profit business it might be Newscorp's latest acquisition.

I think this is a loaded and generally pointless question that offers no real value or information. It plays to existing ideologies without asking the question that matters: what is waste?
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