Everyone knows our national government spends a lot of money. The federal budget for 2022 is $6.011 trillion. To determine how much money the U. S. spends each minute, I divided the budget amount by 365.25 (the number of days in a year including a leap day every fourth year) then divided by 24 (the number of hours in a day) and finally by 60 (the number of minutes in an hour). After all that division I learned that if “we the people” use all the money budgeted for 2022, we will spend over $11.4 million per minute.
Determining how to spend money wisely and eliminate government waste is not a new concern. While visiting my mother- and father-in-law this year for Thanksgiving, I picked up their book, “Uncle John’s Great Big Bathroom Reader.” I randomly opened to a page that had details about government waste from the 1980s and 90s. Some facts from that book will likely make you either smile, shake your head or do both. Consider the following:
• In 1986, the National Park Service bought a half-acre of land in Southwest Washington D.C. for $230,000. Two years later, in 1988, someone discovered the National Park Service already owned the land and had purchased it 74 years earlier in 1914.
• In 1989, State Department Watch, a private watchdog organization, reported the Department of State issued 18,000 travel expense checks without corroborating paperwork. One especially interesting $9,000 check was sent to Ludwig Van Beethoven, social security number 123-45-6789.
• During the 1980s, Department of Defense efficiency experts claimed to have saved taxpayers between $27 million and $136 million per year. Their results were not impressive since the efficiency experts themselves cost between $150 million and $300 million annually.
I am not making a political statement but am instead making the point that it is possible to be smart without being wise.
The book of Proverbs focuses on wisdom and begins with this statement of purpose; “These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair.” (Proverbs 1:1-3, NLT, my emphasis)
We live successfully as we keep the big picture in view and wisely practice what we preach. Stated another way, wisdom is applying what we know in a way which consistently produces positive results. While it is appropriate for those managing the federal government to do that well, it is also equally important for each of us to handle our own responsibilities wisely. The good news is with God’s help we can.