Pizza, Cookies, And Bureaucracy

Pizza, Cookies, And Bureaucracy

The fatal flaw in use it or lose it budget policies.
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Last week, I walked into one of my club meetings and saw about 20 pizzas and 200 Insomnia Cookies on the table. These meetings usually attract about 20-30 people, so everyone was confused why there was enough food to feed a small army. We asked our treasurer why he ordered so much food, and he said we had a few hundred dollars left in the budget, and SU Treasury has a policy that if we don’t spend at least 90% of our budget in a given semester, we take a penalty in the form of a budget cut for next semester’s programming. Long story short, our club bought every member a whole pizza to avoid budget cuts for next semester.

This may seem like a waste of money, but it’s a reality with the use it or lose it model of budget allocation found in many bureaucracies. The theory behind the model makes sense – if they don’t use the money, it means they were given too much and we should give them less next time around. However, it fails in practice because nobody is willing to take that budget cut next time around. This leads to a plethora of wasteful spending (e.g. 20 pizzas and 200 cookies for 30 people). And all that money being wasted comes right out of our student activities fees.

It’s not just WashU Student Union that uses wasteful use it or lose it policies, the U.S. Government does it too. Budgets for federal bureaucracies are determined by the agency’s spending in the previous year, giving agencies the incentive to spend as much money as possible. This can be seen clearly in the end of each fiscal year, when government agencies go on massive spending sprees in order to avoid leaving any money left over, which will ultimately be cut from their budgets. And it’s not even like the agencies are spending the money on things that will be useful in their missions. For example, at the end of 2016, the Army spent $25,301.64 on cornhole sets and $14,306 on T-shirt cannons, and the Department of Transportation spent $20,000 on a grand piano. This is all taxpayer money that could be going to much more important causes.

The use it or lose it problem, whether on the small scale at WashU or the large scale in the federal government, is a major cause of wasted money. Effectively managing budgets has always been difficult, but giving incentives to spend as much as possible definitely isn’t the right approach. No solution will ever be perfect, as it will either waste money or make cuts that are so deep that the organization cannot effectively carry out its mission. Some suggestions for better systems include penalizing wasteful spending, allowing unused funds to roll over, and forcing organizations to create budgets from scratch each year. It is unclear which of these, if any, would be best, but one thing is for sure: use it or lose it policies have to go.

Cover Image Credit: Econlife

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A Letter To My Go-To Aunt

Happiness is having the best aunt in the world.
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I know I don't say it enough, so let me start off by saying thank you.

You'll never understand how incredibly blessed I am to have you in my life. You'll also never understand how special you are to me and how much I love you.

I can't thank you enough for countless days and nights at your house venting, and never being too busy when I need you. Thank you for the shopping days and always helping me find the best deals on the cutest clothes. For all the appointments I didn't want to go to by myself. Thank you for making two prom days and a graduation party days I could never forget. Thank you for being overprotective when it comes to the men in my life.

Most importantly, thank you for being my support system throughout the numerous highs and lows my life has brought me. Thank you for being honest even when it isn't what I want to hear. Thank you for always keeping my feet on the ground and keeping me sane when I feel like freaking out. Thank you for always supporting whatever dream I choose to chase that day. Thank you for being a second mom. Thank you for bringing me into your family and treating me like one of your own, for making me feel special because you do not have an obligation to spend time with me.

You've been my hero and role model from the time you came into my life. You don't know how to say no when family comes to you for help. You're understanding, kind, fun, full of life and you have the biggest heart. However, you're honest and strong and sometimes a little intimidating. No matter what will always have a special place in my heart.

There is no possible way to ever thank you for every thing you have done for me and will continue to do for me. Thank you for being you.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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Abortion Bans Are Only A Small Part Of The Republican War On Women

These bans expose the Republican Party for what it truly is.

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This week, several states passed laws that ban abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant. The most egregious of these is Alabama — the state has banned abortion except for in cases of danger to the mother. Exceptions in the cases of rape and incest were actively voted against by the state legislature. Under the new law, any doctor who is caught giving an abortion would be sentenced to 99 years in prison, and the woman would be charged with murder.

Apart from the fact that this explicitly violates the decision of Roe v. Wade (which is the point), this is only a small part of the slow but steady degradation of women's rights by Republicans in the United States. To anyone who believes that this is simply about people being "pro-life" or "saving the children," then tell them to look at what happens after the fetus is carried to term.

Republicans oppose forcing fathers to be involved in the lives of their children that were forcibly carried to term, desires to cut food stamps and make it more difficult to feed said child, cut funding for affordable housing to make it more difficult for them to find homes, cut spending to public education so these children can't move up the social ladder, and refuse to offer the woman or her child health insurance to keep them both healthy. What about efforts to prevent pregnancy? Republicans also oppose funding birth control and contraception, as well as opposing comprehensive sexual education. To them, the only feasible solution is to simply keep your legs shut. They oppose all of these things because it is, in their eyes, a violation of individual rights to force people to do something. The bill also makes women who get abortions felons, and felons can't vote. I'll let you finish putting those two together.

If you view it from this framework, it would seem like Republicans are being extremely hypocritical by violating the personal freedoms of pregnant women, but if you look at it from the view of restricting social mobility for women, then it makes perfect sense. The Republican dogma of "individual rights" and "personal responsibility" is a socially acceptable facade that they use to cover up their true intentions of protecting the status quo and protect those in power. About any Republican policy, ask yourself: does this disperse power or consolidate it? Whether it be education, healthcare, the environment, or the economy, Republicans love to keep power away from the average citizen and give it to the small number of people that they deem "deserving" of it because of their race, gender, wealth, or power. This is the case with abortion as well; Power is being taken from women, and being given back to men in a reversal of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s.

Republicans don't believe in systemic issues. They believe that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of what point they started. This is why they love capitalism so much. It acts as some sort of great filter in which only those who deserve power can make it to the top. It's also why they hate social policies; they think that helping people who can't help themselves changes the hierarchy in a negative way by giving people who don't "deserve" power, power. Of course, we know that just because you have money and power doesn't mean you earned it fair and square, and even if Republicans believe it, it wouldn't change anything because it wouldn't change how they want to distribute power.

In short, Republican policies, including abortion, leave the average American with less money, less protection, less education, worse health, less opportunity, fewer rights, and less freedom. This is NOT a side effect. This is the point. Regardless of what Republicans will tell you about "inalienable rights" and how everyone is equal, in reality, they believe that some people and groups are more deserving of rights than others, and the group that deserves rights the most are the ones "that will do the best with them." To Republicans, this group consists of the wealthy, the powerful, and the white — the mega-rich, the CEOs of large companies, gun owners and Christians.

So, who do Republicans think deserve power and give it to? People who look and think like them. This, however, begs the question: Who do they want to take it from?

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