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Wednesday April 8th, 2020 6:32PM

Budgets, deficits and debt, oh my!

By Martha Zoller Host, Morning Talk

Whenever anyone talks about cutting or controlling budgets, the naysayers conjure up an image of soup lines and desperation. I’m more in the paraphrased Lee Iacocca club of, “You can cut 5% out of anything and not hurt operations.” 

We need to be there, too. Let’s look at the State of Georgia, first. Governor Kemp asked agencies to look at their budgets and cut 4%. Immediately, people started assuming the worst. Money will be cut from the classroom, or funds for the elderly. You know the drill. Here’s an idea. The state has the same problem the rest of the workforce has—an aging population. People are the biggest cost in any organization. So when someone leaves or retires, let’s look and see if they need to be replaced. 

When I left the Governor’s office in June, one of the suggestions I made was to save half my salary and use the other half to add a person to the metro Atlanta area. So far, that’s what they are doing. My old job may be replaced, but they are looking to see what they need first. If you do that, you will go a long way to the 4% cut without any “damage” to anyone. 

Cutting 4% is nothing and it can be done without pain. I would suggest, also, that every senior staff person in every department offer up a 4% cut in their salary as a show of solidarity with the Governor. 

Now let’s look at the feds. President Trump is clearly a leverage kind of guy. He came out of real estate, big real estate, and he’s not uncomfortable with debt. But he understands you can go to far. I’m praying that in a second Trump term, he will put the breaks on the out of control spending of the last 2 decades, including the last 3 years and make some changes. 

This is the time to make cuts in a good economy. And I will tell you this, the same process of looking at every person who leaves or retires as a possible savings would be the quickest way to cut spending. 

At last count, there are roughly 2 million federal employees in America, twice what there was 20 years ago. Forty-five percent of them are age 50 or older. On average, about 100,000 federal workers retire each year. That doesn’t count the ones that leave for other reasons. The federal government has been predicting a retirement tsunami for decades. 

So let’s say you don’t replace 50,000 of those retired workers on an annual basis for 10 years. If you only count salaries and no benefits, you could save $250 billion dollars over 10 years without affecting any services. 

Don’t say you can’t do it. It’s a start. And we have to start somewhere. 

Two other places to look would be passing Johnny Isakson’s Biennial Budget Proposal and David Perdue’s Budget Reform proposal. More on that in the next installment. 

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