We have been constantly told recently through this budget/debt ceiling debate that the government has to cut spending to bring fiscal sanity and a balanced budget back to Washington. Sure, we have been spending a lot more than we have taken in for the last 10 years and that causes huge deficits and we do need to tighten our belts. And I believe we need to reform our tax structure so that the revenue burden is shared equally between the lower, middle, and upper classes and big business.
But there is one aspect of all of this that everyone seems to be ignoring. The question should be of not only how much we spend in relation to what we take in, but what we spend it on.
The Republicans always want to compare the government to corporations and have touted candidates with business experience such as Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, and Herman Cain. Whether this comparison is valid is up for debate. Political satirist Bill Maher constantly points out that there is a big difference between the two and one who has run a business is not necessarily qualified to run the government.
However, if this premise of the two being equal were true, I believe the GOP is forgetting a common theme for running a successful business: "You have to spend money to make money." I would like to refine that a bit further to say "you have to spend money wisely to make money." In other words, invest in what will yield high returns.
Take the Philadelphia Phillies (MLB team) organization. They transformed a cellar team into a constant playoff contender that can now boast over 170 straight home sellouts. There was a time not too long ago (2007) when the Phillies were being ridiculed for being the first professional baseball team to reach 10,000 losses. Not a very proud distinction.
What brought about this turnaround? At the turn of the century, Phillies owner Bill Giles heard a voice that said "If you build it, they will come." And build it they did: Citizens Bank Park: a real old-fashioned ballpark that opened in 2003 that had real grass, great food, charm, and a state of the art Fanavision scoreboard. And come they did.
The increase in revenue allowed the organization to bring in a new GM, recent Hall of Famer, Pat Gillick who oversaw the hiring of present manager and baseball guru Charlie Manuel in 2004, and a farm system that produced All Star players that formed a nucleus of a great team that has won the NL Eastern Division four years in row, a World Series title in 2008, two NL pennants and currently the best record in baseball.
The Phillies have learned (as have the Yankees and Red Sox) that to compete you have to make money and to make money you have to spend money. Thanks to current GM Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phils have arguably the best pitching staff in baseball and have added every summer to their embarrassment of riches, the latest acquisition being rightfielder Hunter Pence from the Astros.
The Houston Astros are an example of the opposite scenario. They have the worst record in baseball and GM Ed Wade (ironically the Phillies' former GM) is in the process of unloading Houston's best players for minor league prospects. Owner Drayton McLane is in the process of selling the team to Houston businessman Jim Crane. A baseball source revealed that the Astros' annually shrinking payroll will continue to plummet even after Crane takes control of the team.
Success breeds success and failure causes a downward spiral.
As a country we can learn from the Phillies and the Astros. Do we want to be a third rate country or a leader of the free world? The US Government has not been fiscally wise this past decade. After inheriting a surplus from President Clinton, not only did President Bush give tax cuts for the wealthy, he also spent like a drunken sailor on two wars and a new Homeland Security Office. If we had taken what he spent on defense and invested it in domestic projects, we would not be in the dire economic straits that we are today. I also believe that President Obama is wasting our resources on the war in Afghanistan.
Contrary to popular belief, war is a costly waste of lives and money as well as a bad investment. What do we get back in return? A false sense of security? History has shown that anytime we engage in long term combat overseas, our economy suffers and usually a recession results. This was true of World War I,the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraqi War, and now Afghanistan War.
I suggest we invest in projects that are beneficial to our society like infrastructure, bridge building, green energy (to help the environment), and education so we can insure a positive future for the next generation. American corporations also must stop moving their factories overseas and employ American workers here.
Just as the Phillies have given the tri-state area a sense of pride and accomplishment, Congress and the President can do that for the nation if they just get their priorities straight and invest in the American people first. The Phillies have set a high standard of excellence and are willing to spend now to keep the winning happening. I believe we can become world champions again just as the Philadelphia Phillies have done. It just takes the will of the American public to insist we do "big things" as President Obama so brilliantly articulated in his January State of the Union address.