Coca-Cola | Starbucks | McDonald’s | Google | Microsoft | Intel | U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Which of the listed groups do you think has the highest annual budget? You probably guessed right because it sticks out like a sore thumb – the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). HUD has a higher budget than Coca-Cola and Google combined. Starbucks takes care of over 5 million patrons per day (2006 stat) and sells packaged coffee beans and numerous other goods, and does it for a little over $9 billion per year in operating expenses. Google handles more internet traffic than any other website on earth (over 4% of the internet’s entire traffic), builds software for computers and mobile phones, and does a slew of other money-making ventures and it spends a little over $16 billion per year, which comes out to about 1/3 of the amount that HUD plans to spend in 2010. HUD spent over $40 billion in 2009 and plans to up that by a modest $3 billion to over $43.7 billion in 2010 and was rated the worst landlord in the United States in 2006. On a per working person basis, that is over $291 that each of us will spend on HUD next year. I can get a Playstation 3 or a laptop computer for less than that.
There is nothing special about HUD that made me choose it for my example. They are no more inefficient than any other department of the federal government and they could have easily been replaced by one of the other countless departments and agencies that our government has developed (full list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_federal_agencies).
The inherent inefficiencies in government lead to dramatically greater levels of spending. There is no incentive for a government agency to run efficiently, in fact there is an incentive to run inefficiently. By bloating their spending, government agencies can secure more funding for the next year. If, however, they run efficiently and go under budget, that money will be stripped from them the next year and reallocated to an inefficient program. Furthermore, as an agency grows and hires more people, legislators become afraid to disband the agency because they will then be “killing jobs.” Conversely, private people and organizations have incentives to spend as little as possible while producing as much as possible. These capitalistic efficiencies, not government spending, are what have made the United States so prosperous in its brief history.
Would you rather have Shaun Donovan (HUD Secretary most of us have never heard of and has a higher budget than the Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer) spend your $291 next year, or would you rather spend it yourself? Every dollar that the government spends is one less dollar that each of us can invest or use to buy food and clothing. If the government really wants to improve employment and housing, they would be best suited to get out of the way and let the people of this nation spend their own money in far more efficient manners than the U.S. Government will ever be able to spend our money for us.