America: Moving Forward From Materialism
Government by its very definition is bureaucratic. Each agency is made up of people united by a common purpose to serve their country. Whether it’s by serving in the military, typing out critical reports, or assessing budgets, each federal employee serves a critical role in the United States (U.S.) government. Often, change occurs because of a reactive response to a problem; however, a proactive step could help prevent unnecessary bureaucratic hiccups.
One idea is to sign a law or Executive Order that prohibits gifts that are given to individuals by designated agencies. These gifts could be candy with printed emblems, clothing, pencils, pens, teddy bears, DVDs, or any other souvenir item. The point is that all federal agencies are allotted a budget that is divided among the organization. Within each agency, hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent to buy souvenir items to give away for free. The U.S. government becomes more of a retail store by offering these items, when government should be performing work for its citizens and not give away material gifts. If government is going to become a retail store, then every entrance way should be housed with a cash register right next to the metal detectors to ensure that all items are paid and accounted for by an agency. The U.S. government is mandated by the Constitution to provide for the general welfare of all American citizens for defense, social needs, and other vital necessities, but not souvenirs. In effect, the United States government does not make a profit because the items are given away in a gesture of kindness or gratitude. Sure, this idea seems harsh, but the implication is important for several reasons.
First, if the United States government is trying to induce cost saving mechanisms, without employees losing their jobs, then its imperative to cut the wasteful spending in all areas of government. At this very moment, the factory worker is losing his job at the only plant in town, the cashier is wondering how she is going to afford day care for her young child, and another local community hospital closed because of a lack of funding. For too long, individuals have enjoyed the idea of free “stuff.” Although, important as a memento, this free stuff has taken a toll on the American tax payer.
Second, the United States government does not make a profit when items are given away for free. The cost is completely beset on the American taxpayer and government, while the benefit is an emotional token of happiness that is not exchangeable at a local bank. The implication is that if the White House and Congress acknowledge the necessity to save resources, then cutting the free stuff is one measure that does not cost a thing, except a vote from Congress to pass this measure or an Executive Order.
On July 20, 2010, the USA.GOV website was accessed to provide a list of all federal agencies. A count disclosed that the federal government lists 495 agencies that it lists as an index of government departments and agencies. On the same day, several screen printing websites were accessed to provide sample prices for plastic cups and pens. For example, one website was accessed that advertised cups being sold for 0.67 cents a piece. A large order of 5000 plastic cups with an agency logo puts a total cost on the taxpayer at $3,350.00. If all of the agencies ordered cups to provide as souvenirs, it is a total cost of $1,658, 250.
Of course all agencies will not purchase plastic cups, but the undeniable fact is that 495 agencies associated with the federal government do purchase material items to give away for free to the American public. If nearly $2,000,000.00 could be saved by eliminating every agency spending over $3,000.00, then this money could be used for other vital needs of the government. Moreover, $3,000.00 is a minimal amount of a larger allocation designated for material gifts. In other words, the savings could be much bigger for the American taxpayer.
Moreover, this plan would be easy to implement. This does not involve buying goods to install in buildings, firing employees, or restructuring departments, but can be implemented by not allocating a budget for material gifts. While some of the themes have been based on better environmental standards and saving energy, this idea can be immediately placed in next year’s congressional budget.
Currently, Congress has been arguing over whether jobless benefits should be extended to the unemployed. Think about it; the money saved could be used to keep food on the table. Too often, individuals value the free gift, and the importance of life is lost in material things. The very setup of our government ensures that a class system will exist, but that does not mean that individuals should go hungry. If we are going to cut costs, it should be through material costs, rather than, those that affect an American’s livelihood.
Although, this measure could be considered inconsiderate, the reality is that free stuff does not have a solid foundation in economic theory. Get rid of the chum, the pens, buttons, calendars, stickers, and other items because these souvenirs do not offer an economic benefit. The impact is that millions of dollars could be saved if this measure was added to the budget next year.