Let's think deeper about cutting 'wasteful' spending

We hear people make claims about "wasteful spending," but do we investigate the issue enough?

I listen to people every day talk about “wasteful spending,” and how they believe money can be spent more wisely. It can feel good to say you want to get rid of waste, but that doesn't always make it the right decision. This was a very relevant topic during many of the student government elections in the latest election cycles, as numerous platforms talked about cutting wasteful spending in student government. I think these conversations can bring out plenty of intelligent ideas to help make money go farther, but we have to be vigilant to not let the idea of cutting spending get to our heads.

We have to think deeper about why we spend money on certain initiatives. If something doesn’t line up, then we should reconsider spending, but simply calling something wasteful isn’t helpful. The other problem we face is if we see wasteful spending, and we don't do anything about it? 

I remember when Taylor Place installed new tables and chairs on the outside patio, despite already having a different set there already. Upon seeing this, I went to an RHA meeting and questioned why this change was made. They happily explained to me that the current arrangement made it incredibly difficult to host events there. In order to be more flexible, they made the decision, and it made sense. Had I not gone and received more information, I would have remained uniformed, and would have continued to spread misinformation.

As the next Vice President of Policy on the Downtown Phoenix campus, I want to listen to student ideas on cutting wasteful spending, but I want to also remind them to always consider why money is being spent the way it is currently.

The latest example in Arizona of spending cuts gone wrong, was the closing of around 70 percent of polling places for the Presidential Preference Election held on March 22 in Maricopa County.

The County Recorder’s office reduced these polling places due to two elections being held this spring (an abnormal circumstance), as well as the loss of $2.4 million that the legislature passed, and Governor Doug Ducey singed into law last year. This resulted in obscenely long lines at the polls and angry voters everywhere. A careful consideration of the effects of this cut in funding would have had someone saying it wasn’t a good idea. We have cut universities by $463 million since the recession, imagine in 20 years the effects of these decisions. If the effects end up being as bad as the election cuts — it’s not going to be a good situation.

I want to be sure that as a newly-minted representative of the student body I am ready to reexamine where student government puts its money. I hope over the next year, students will give me their input on how we can spend efficiently. In doing this however, ask questions about why we started funding certain objectives in the first place. Understand the reasoning, and point out if it’s flawed. Simply stating that something is “wasteful” isn’t helpful, we need to understand if the justification is outdated.

Over the next year there will be a number of issues that arise, and I hope to be your voice to ask the tough questions on how our money is spent.

Related links:

Government is expensive

The incredible myth of stimulus spending


Reach the columnist at jarwood@asu.edu or follow @jimsthebeast on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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