Fiscal Irresponsibility

Last week, Tyler Hill ’05 lamented the rejection of an Alabama referendum to increase taxes “slightly,” explaining that cutting government spending would be an “impossible solution” to the “myriad problems stemming from lack of funds…in Alabama.” But a tax hike is not the solution: practical and prudent government spending is. In the Cato Institute Fiscal Report Card on America’s Governors: 2002, Stephen Moore and Stephen Slivinski discovered that in the time from 1991 to 2000, real per capita spending in Alabama increased by 39 percent. Much of this enormous increase was in the name of “education,” as funding for schools has increased 180 percent in the past 30 years while the number of students has decreased by 14 percent. And while, as Hill relates, the quality of public schools is at an alarming low. Alabama is receiving enough money from taxes. It just isn’t being spent correctly. With respects to education, according to Citizens for a Sound Economy, “Last year the state school system squandered over $807 million in tax-payer money on ‘non-educational services.’” And according to the Alabama Policy Institute, the state could have saved anywhere from $75-100 million over the past six years by contracting non-educational services (i.e. janitorial services and bus transportation) to private companies. Furthermore, while Governor Riley worries whether students will have textbooks, clearly, certain less important expenditures can be cut. A few suggestions: the $54,375 the government spent on America’s Junior Miss Pageant; the $10,000,000 for road and utility work supporting a new convention center and hockey arena; or the $71,292 for the Alabama Sports Festival. But gluttonous government spending does not exist in Alabama alone. Our national government receives billions (trillions?) of dollars from Americans each year; and each year, our government throws away millions of our hard-earned money on expenses the American people should not be covering. In 1998, Hilary and Chelsea Clinton traveled to Africa; five years later, information regarding the amount of taxpayers’ money spent on the trip still is not disclosed. We do know, however, that at least $2.3 million (out of working Americans’ pockets) was spent on flying costs alone. But that does not even compare to the hundreds of millions of dollars simply missing. Under Clinton’s administration, the Department of Education lost track of $450 million, according to the General Accounting Office (GAO), a legislative branch agency whose mission is “to help improve the performance and assure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people.” In addition, David Walker, head of the GAO, confessed on the television program “The O’Reilly Factor” to his and the GAO’s ignorance of the whereabouts of $1 billion (out of a total $3 billion) sent to Haiti that is unable to be accounted for. This is, to say the very least, inexcusable. And while our school does not have the budget of Alabama or America, the same can be related to us here at Andover. Every year our parents spend thousands of dollars to the Academy in order to pay for our education, among other things. It is these “other things” that every so often, I hear about in distant ramblings and complaints: the constant lawn trimming; the new Ryley Room and the library’s “Center for Global Justice” signs; and the 1000 coffee mugs we received last winter. And though I do not wish to criticize the administration and Trustees on their management of our tuition money, as I do not claim to know all the specifics, some of these expenditures do make me wonder. As Ronald Reagan said, “Balancing the budget is a little like protecting your virtue: You just have to learn to say, ‘No.’” That is: to sports festivals, African vacations and coffee mugs alike.