Writings and observations

Assessing the details

Here’s a suggestions for two new public commissions (with staff) – could be set up at the federal, state and local levels – that conservative analysts logically should applaud:

One would examine public budgets to raise questions about spending, whether all those expenses are needed, whether greater efficiencies could be had, and so on. The other would do something similar with the law: Systematically comb through the code and look for whatever is archaic, contradictory, unnecessary and so on.

The key to doing this is detail, taking a magnifying glass to the specific items, to assess what works and what doesn’t. This is, obviously, work. Howling generically about big government and high taxes is a lot more fun, but nowhere near as useful; if this site is sometimes a little dismissive of that rhetoric, then this is why.

Which is prelude to the other hand: Some of the work Wayne Hoffman (through his Idaho Freedom Foundation) has been doing of late. He has been poring over the details of spending at the state and local level in Idaho, and coming up with some interesting results. Some of it could actually lead to practical changes and improvement.

Today, for example, a post on how Idaho state government has, in the last budget cycle, spent nearly $20 million “on furniture, cars, trucks and computer equipment.” The largest chunk, approaching half, went for computer equipment but substantial amounts on the other items as well.

That shouldn’t be the end of the story. Maybe those buys were needed and efficient. Maybe they weren’t. Maybe (more likely) they were a mixed bag. The point is that someone (independent of the agencies) ought to be taking a detailed look at this stuff.

Hoffman has been posting what’s turning into a steady stream of government spending information. There’s some dispute over some of it. He has been looking into pay for local government employees, and seeking to post names together with salaries. That has ruffled some feathers (and led to roadblocks in some places); but the request is fair: These are, as they should be, public records, and it is the taxpayers, not boards or commissions or administrators, who ultimately employ these people. Sometimes a reminder of that is needed.

Some useful Sunday reading.

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