Is the Government Working?

By Manny Jacobson

In the United States many people believe that the government is broken. They are under the impression that nothing in the government is working. Is this factual? Is it?

For today’s adventure, our happy, cohesive group started the day off with an academic seminar with special guest Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform. This organization opposes any tax increase on Americans.Mr. Norquist believes that the best way to fix the system is not to convince the legislators in the middle-ground “mush,” but to get the two extreme boundaries of the two parties to agree. Once this happens, Norquist proposes that those in the “mush” will follow right along.

Founder and President of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, Photo by Queion Swift

Founder and President of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, Photo by Queion Swift

Mr. Norquist believes that much work needs to be done to our system of government. This along with Jason Grumet’s  presentation from yesterday leads to the assumption that the government is not working.

After a quick Q&A session, our group quickly made our way to Capitol Hill for a reception at Senator Chuck Grassley’s office. We had a chance to chat with the Senator’s staff, as well as his wife, Barbara. We ventured to the Judiciary Committee room where we watched the livestream of the newly elected senators being sworn in.

A quick trip on the metro and next thing you know we found ourselves at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We had the great honor of meeting Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Drake University Students with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Photo by Jill VanWyke

Drake University Students with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Photo by Jill VanWyke

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Photo by Manny Jacobson

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Photo by Manny Jacobson

Secretary Vilsack tackled the question of whether government is working. The answer turns out to be complicated.

Vilsack said, yes, portions of the government are working, and he provided examples that he said prove USDA is functioning efficiently and effectively.

Vilsack listed some staggering statistics. In 2014, 146,000 home loans were secured through the USDA. this means 146,000 families would not have gotten by without government assistance. Since Vilsack came into the position in 2009,  905,000+ of these loans have been secured.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Photo by Manny Jacobson

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Photo by Manny Jacobson

4,800 communities have improved water systems. This affects nearly 21 million people. Nearly 500,000 farmers have been given part of the $4.3 billion allotted by the USDA’s Farm Bill. 19,000 businesses were helped. The USDA invested in about 9,000 renewable energy projects.

Even while completing all of this, Vilsack said, the USDA cut $1 billion from its budget. The USDA’s budget is $145 billion, the majority allocated by Congress for mandatory spending. Only about $20 billion of the USDA’s budget is discretionary.

After everything is said and done, the USDA managed to cut 20% of their controllable spending budget while still being able to increase the amount of services provided. If that’s not an example of working, then I’m not sure what the word means. Yes, there are other parts of the government that are not working, but the USDA is an example of  something going right.

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