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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thought of the Day


The Wall Street Journal weblog reports that:

CNN.com has a "gallery" of the "meanest budget cuts" in the legislation Congress approved this week. One is the Administration on Aging:
This agency, which helps senior citizens navigate the maze of federal bureaucracy and maintain independent lives, saw its budget of over $2 billion cut by $16 million.
Mathematically, this is a budget cut of 16/2000 = 0.008 = 0.8%, just south of a whole percentage point.  This is well and truly "mean"

mean. adj. lacking distinction or eminence, humble; of poor shabby inferior quality or status, worthy of little regard

However, like the company that diligently reduced errors in handling customer complaints, CNN and others seem to have missed the point.  Just as improving the customer complaint process is secondary to eliminating customer complaints, so to is helping elders "navigate the maze of federal bureaucracy" secondary to eliminating the maze of federal bureaucracy.  IOW, here is a federal program whose task is to deal with the frustrations and inefficiencies of other federal programs.  First give us a wad of money to set up unconscionably complicated rules; then give us a bunch more money to guide people through those rules.  It is the gift that keeps on giving.  I look forward to the program that will help people with the intricacies of dealing with the Administration on Aging. 

CNN reporters may be too incurious to have noticed this, inasmuch as much "news" reporting is actually the reprinting of press releases from interest groups. 

It is one thing to help those in need.  We used to do that one-on-one before we lost our courage.  But most of this money seems to go to "approved" contractors and mid-level bureaucrats before a pittance trickles back to those in genuine need to use in "approved" manners.  (As Bill Clinton once said during a speech in Buffalo NY regarding the then dot-com budget surplus: "We could give it back to you; but you might not spend it the right way.") 

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