Reflections on spending and priorities

Priorities

April is a month of spending and taxation. As individuals and businesses are filling out tax returns and possibly making tax payments and estimated tax payments to government, our state legislature and city councils are discussing how to spend our money.

Whether it is our decision to buy something, or government’s decision to fund something, it’s all about our priorities. I started thinking about what are priorities are, and how our spending priorities reflect what is important to us.

In our personal lives, our basic priorities might be:

  1. Security (safety from harm)
  2. Food and water
  3. Shelter and clothing (safety from the environment)
  4. Health (medicine, vaccinations, vitamins)

If our fundamental needs are met, our priorities might change to:

  1. Family and community ties
  2. A sense of purpose, spirituality, or philanthropy
  3. A fulfilling job (career)
  4. Planning for the future (retirement)

Just as our priorities influence how we spend money, government’s priorities influence the programs that are funded.

When governments prioritize society (the common good), focusing on the issues that individuals cannot easily manage, spending priorities might be:

  1. Public security (safety from other countries or hostile groups)
  2. Public order (safety within a community)
  3. Common good (utilities, infrastructure, education, recreation, environment)
  4. Public welfare (healthcare, welfare, housing)

Until the Social Security Act passed in 1935, Hawaii and the United States seemed to prioritize the common good – emphasizing charity and philanthropy instead of public assistance.

When governments prioritize individuals, focusing on personal welfare and health, spending priorities might be:

  1. Public welfare (healthcare, welfare, housing)
  2. Public order (safety within a community)
  3. Common good (utilities, infrastructure, education, recreation, environment)
  4. Public security (safety from other countries or hostile groups)

Based on 2015 federal spending, the United States government seems to prioritize individuals – 65% of the federal budget was spent on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and income security programs.

 

Should Hawaii’s priorities be on individuals or the common good? What are your priorities?

 

Note: I found this elegant graphic on TheDailyQuotes.com, and I wish I could acknowledge the original author.

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