Reporter's Note: President Obama has spent more money in his first 300 days in office than the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, spent in eight years. The deficit is now stretching out to somewhere around Jupiter. That has a lot of people worried. I’m writing another letter to the White House, but wondering if I should be looking for a second job instead.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
There is an old saying, “If you have a problem and money is the solution, you don’t have a problem.” It has it’s limitations, as you might guess. For example, if I enjoy a scrumptious lunch at Big Bobby’s Truck Stop and Wrestling Emporium but don’t have the eight bucks to cover the bill, trust me, I have a problem; especially if Big Bobby is around at the moment. Obviously people, programs, businesses all need a basic level of working cash, but still I’ve long found that saying worth bearing in mind.
Let me tell you a story. Back when Ronald Reagan came into office, a lot of government programs around the country took big budget cuts, and the folks running those programs howled like cats with their tails in the door. Every time I went to cover a story about their troubles, the punch line was the same, “If only we could get more funding, everything would be fine again.” Finally I got tired of ending all my reports with that refrain, and I felt like it was becoming lazy reporting. After all, everyone knew funding was an issue. I didn’t need to tell them yet again.
So I started saying to my interviewees, “Yes, but you’re not going to get that funding. So what are you going to do to fix your problems anyway?” Suddenly, I was amazed at all the great ideas they had. They started exploring new ways of handling their procedures, their staffs, their paperwork, their clients, and most proved remarkably resilient in moving forward despite their severe budget cuts.
I’m not saying that alone made the cuts a good or bad idea, because sometimes cuts can truly be damaging despite the best efforts of the affected folks. But what I am saying is that in my experience a lot of people in a lot of places (especially, ahem, political types) always think first about throwing money at problems, instead of truly addressing them with intelligence, planning, discipline, and realistic expectations.
So now I see reports that after all that spending over the past eleven-ish months you are going to turn your attention to reducing the deficit. I’m not the one to pronounce judgment on whether all that spending was good or bad, or necessary or not; plenty of your political pals are already deeply engaged in that fistfight. What I will say is that this is a great opportunity for you to show your stuff in another arena; to show that you have just as many ideas about how to solve problems with ideas, effort, and ingenuity…not so much just with cash.
I mean, after all, anyone can spend a fortune fixing up his house. But it takes someone special, with genuinely good ideas and superior planning power to get the same job done, while also guarding the bank account.
Hey, considering your travel schedule to Asia, maybe you should consider posting the deficit in Yen for a while! Not only would it be fun, but maybe it would look like less. Just a thought. Call if you can, but I’m not sure what the international rates are from over there, so uh…considering I’ll be paying for it…be reasonable. Ha!
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