A Thousand Cuts, Ctd

by Patrick Appel

The first reader quoted in this post e-mails again:

I agree that it would be better if the bureaucracy had some incentive to save money, and being allowed to keep saved money, to use for some other need in another year, is vastly better than flushing money near the end of the budget year. When I was in my Master of Public Administration program a few years ago, I learned about how the city of San Diego had taken that approach, and it does work. Whether it works in a time when budgets are tight and people are looking for money that would otherwise be available but isn't due to tax receipts being lower than expected  (this is at the state level, not national, where Congress can just borrow money) remains to be seen.
Also, consider your suggestions in the context we all live in.

Many members of Congress, which appropriates money, also argue that the bureaucrats are ruining the country and blame them for problems that Congress creates. Those bureaucrats are there to administer the laws that are passed. Seldom does anyone in Congress or at the state level ever ask 1) does this proposal make sense, 2) is there a better way to do it, and 3) do we still need to do this at all. Instead, decisions about what is funded and to what extent is based more on what the lobbyists and other special interests say they need, with little thought given to how the bureaucracy has to manage the outcome.
Finally, do you really think that the Congress would be willing to cede its authority to appropriate funds to a bunch of people they generally refer to as losers? Ronald Reagan did some good things for this country, but using the bureaucracy as a foil and perpetuating the notion that all bureaucrats are lazy and wasteful doesn't make for an environment where they would ask those same people to be part of the solution, I think.