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John Stossel’s take on the Walpole budget

March 21, 2011

Here is an excerpt from the book Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel — Why Everything You Know is Wrong, written by libertarian television commentator John Stossel (he used to host 20/20 on ABC News and now works for FOX News):

When Capital Cities Corporation bought ABC, I was anxious about Capital Cities’ reputation for cost-cutting. I was right to be anxious. My bosses were ordered to cut ABC’s staff by 1,800 people. I was appalled. “How can we maintain the quality of 20/20,” I asked angrily, “if we don’t have a lighting specialist, and if we have to limit the editing time?”
My complaints were ignored, and I was surprised to find we could do the work with fewer people. Then Disney bought Cap Cities, and there were more layoffs. Again we found new ways to do things. We never would have done it without the pressure.
Government agencies never face that kind of pressure. Occasionally a manager proposes minor cuts, and then comes the outrage: Cutbacks? “No!” scream the special interests, or whatever you want to call the partnership of the bureaucrats and the people who receive their largesse. Without competition forcing hard choices, government managers cave.

I think Stossel has a point: government really should experience some cutbacks and we may not be all that worse off once those cuts occur. The town webmaster, whose hours have been cut in this year’s town budget, will likely still have time to update the town website, and the Planner, whose hours have also been cut, will still work for a period of time, even if both of these dedicated individuals are working less than they would like to. I also believe the Economic Development Officer should be completely eliminated from the budget, and I doubt the town would feel much of a negative impact from that.

Town Administrator Michael Boynton proposed cutting the hours of the Town Hall Purchasing Coordinator as well, and the Assistant Town Administrator, according to Boynton, will be taking on the purchasing responsibilities. Mr Boynton has said that “this should not be considered as a permanent solution if at all possible.” But why should this arrangement not be considered permanent? That statement seems unreasonable to me. See my thoughts on the Boynton budget here.

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