In these hard economic times individuals and families around South Carolina and the nation are making hard economic choices. They are forced to prioritize what needs to be paid for first. The rational individual or family pays for the rent or mortgage first, then utilities, food and essential clothing, insurance, taxes and creditors. After those things are paid for, they spend money on extras. It is a sensible way to operate in tough times.
Government, at all levels, does not take the same approach. Special interests from the local level to Washington seem to dictate the budget priorities of governments.
There are some things that the vast majority of us agree are important government functions at the various levels. There is public safety, such as police and fire protection, first responders, and court operations. Then there is the maintenance of infrastructure such as roads and water and sewer systems. Other obligations to education and certain social safety nets come to mind. It would make sense if governments at all levels looked to those types of issues first when writing budgets and then paid for other things with what was left after paying for first things first. It is what most Americans do everyday.
Instead, governments at all levels do not do that. Influenced by lobbyists and other special interests, they tap dance around cutting the non essential things from government out. Take the state of South Carolina for example. The South Carolina Budget and Control Board is famous for its across the board budget cuts by a certain percentage. It gives politicians cover from the special interests, but it makes little sense.
Does it make sense that essential services such as SLED or the courts system is asked to cut their spending by the same percentage as a non essential service such as the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism? In a perfect world, the state could fully fund both. But, we are not in a perfect world. And, if given the choice of fully funding an essential service and cutting out a non-essential government service, most would opt to fund the essential service.
However, the problem is that the vast majority of South Carolinians who prioritize their own finances have little voice with those who govern them. They do not have lobbyists or the money to pay for lawyers to sue over this and that government issue. They do not host lavish receptions for elected officials.
Instead the average South Carolinian turns over more and more of his or her money over to governments at all levels via taxes. Their governments then spend that money with no rational sense whatsoever.