From the Director: Fear and Budgeting in Cincinnati

by Josh Spring

Budgets. Lately there has been a lot of talk about budgets all the way down from the federal level to the state level to the city level. But what is a budget meant to do really? From all the kind of talk (and banter) we have been hearing one might think a budget is just meant to be a platform for politicians and media queens (often one in the same) to act dramatic, passionate and generally try to convince voters they are strong, indignant when needed and fighting for us.

In fact, a budget is to be a financial plan meant to meet needs and accomplish needed goals. For example, if you or your family creates an annual budget for your household you first figure out how much money will come in. Then you determine how much money must go out for necessities. Once you ensure that your needed expenses can be paid, you likely determine certain goals for growth. These may include saving for retirement, purchasing a needed new car, making certain donations, paying off back bills, etc. Then you create a full plan to make all of this happen within the initial income number — a budget.

Instead of doing this, “our representatives” use budgeting for political grandstanding and smoke screens. For example, if you are a city council person and you don’t like Human Services — dollars that help people in need of necessities, the annual budget gives you a chance to work to cut Human Service without having to directly say you just don’t like it. You can simply claim that, “Well, we have a large deficit and we have some tough decisions to make and while I believe Human Services is important, the money is just no longer there, so I have to vote to cut it.” You, however certainly won’t mention, for example, that you are also against taxing the millions of dollars in salaries big-whig ceos receive in stock options — a change to local law that would generate millions of dollars- you simply say the money does not exist.

If you are such a politician and you want an even more convincing story, you don’t only say the money does not exist, you claim that if we fund everything else, we will have to cut police people and fire people and we will then all be on death’s door step. You divide and conquer.

Sadly these smoke screens and this grandstanding deceive a lot of citizens. We look at strong words coming from politician’s mouths and believe they are actually fighting for us. Much of the problem is that we don’t pay attention the other many days of the year when those same politicians are saying things and making decisions that show their real intentions.

Soon Cincinnati city council will pass a new budget- start paying attention now. Start reading what decisions politicians made over the past year and determine for yourself if their budget arguments are actually smoke screens. Then in November, before we pass a budget — vote — and vote according to what you have figured out. Vote for those that actually practice and fight for
what is right, not those that attempt to capitalize on fear and budgets and tell others to do the same; share your knowledge.