In a recent interview with “Pure Politics,” Stacy, who has served in the General Assembly since 1993, defended the current practice of Frankfort’s political leadership meeting behind closed doors while “horse trading” (our term, not Stacy’s) during the most critical part of the state budget process.
“It seems to be easier to get it done – to hammer out the details and then present — at least the plan piecemeal part by part — when you can talk frankly, off the record, and then come forward and present part by part by part and build that budget that way,” Stacy said.
A lack of transparency in the budget process certainly may be “easier” for the politicians as they spend taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars, but is it really in the best interest of those same taxpayers not to have access to how spending decisions are made?
Nobel laureate Milton Friedman once said that there are four ways to spend money:
* You can spend your money on yourself. This ensures that you both “watch what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money,” Friedman said.
* You can spend your money on someone else. He used a birthday gift as an example. “I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.”
* You can spend someone else’s money on yourself. “Then I’m sure to have a good lunch!” Friedman said.
* You can spend someone else’s money on yet someone else. The opportunity for mischief is the greatest. “Then,” as Friedman said, “I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.”
Friedman also noted that when someone (government) spends other people’s (taxpayers’) money to buy something for yet someone else (government programs), the connection between the earner, spender and recipient is the most remote “and the potential for mischief and waste is the greatest” among his four stated ways of spending.
That’s why transparency is needed throughout the entire budget process.
When closed doors and armed guards literally shut those paying the bills out of the process, the potential increases exponentially for “mischief and waste.”