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3 Min Read

Read Any Good Budgets Lately?


Every foundation communicator at one time or another is given the task of turning academic prose, research findings or something impenetrable into a more accessible form for more general consumption and wide distribution.  As I look back on my past foundation days, I cannot personally think of a challenge that would have been more daunting than being handed the assignment of creating a compelling narrative to introduce the budget of the United States of America, and especially the budget that the Obama administration introduced this week.  Well, hats off to the team that prepared the introductory narratives.  

It’s worth going to the budget website and downloading any of the following sections:

  • President’s Message
  • Inheriting a Legacy of Misplaced Priorities
  • Jumpstarting the Economy and Investing for the Future
  • Conclusion

While not beach or late night reading, it’s amazingly well written and well worth your time. And talk about staying on message, using clear and forceful writing, and sprinkling the right number of fact and figures throughout. (One negative: the charts are so-so). Oh, and did I say, no jargon?

Here are some snippets from one of the most interesting of the sections, Inheriting a Legacy of Misplaced Priorities, which lays out the case for why an entirely new approach to government spending and oversight is needed, and more the point, how we got into the mess we are are in:

This is the legacy that we inherit—a legacy of mismanagement and misplaced priorities, of missed opportunities and of deep, structural problems ignored for too long.  It’s a legacy of irresponsibility, and it is our duty to change it.No one reading this report needs to be told that our economy is in crisis. We have lost jobs for 13 consecutive months for a total of 36 million jobs lost.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more jobs were lost last year than in any year since data collection of this kind began in 1939.

For the past eight years, in a time of economic growth, the Government spent recklessly on tax cuts for the few and hand-outs for the well-off and well-connected, mismanaged billions of dollars in taxpayer money, and failed to honor the responsibilities we have to future generations.

Massive new programs have routinely been omitted from the Budget to mask their true cost, while a new entitlement program and massive tax cuts were proposed and signed into law without any attempt to pay for them.

It is no coincidence that the policy failures of the past eight years have been accompanied by unprecedented Governmental secrecy and unprecedented access by lobbyists and the well-connected to policymakers in Washington. Consequently, the needs of those in the room trump those of their fellow citizens.

With a government that is accountable to the people, we can jumpstart our economy in a way that is both quick and wise, and begin to make the long-term investments in areas long neglected.

(A special thanks to Chuck Sheketoff for bringing this material to my attention via a Facebook link.  Sheketoff is executive director and a founder of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan research institute that uses research and analysis to advance policies and practices that improve the economic and social opportunities of low- and moderate-income Oregonians, the majority of Oregonians.)

–Bruce Trachtenberg

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