Debby Boone school of public policy

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If you were listening to the radio during the late 1970s, you couldn’t escape the love ballad, “You Light Up My Life,” recorded by Pat Boone’s daughter, Debby. The 1977 release spent the longest period of time atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1970s and earned the singer a Grammy.

Although Boone went on to record numerous Christian, pop and children’s albums, many consider her a “one hit wonder” with that chart buster.

A recent comment by Mitch Daniels, director of the Office of Management and Budget, dredged up my Debby Boone memories. Daniels used a line from her hit song to describe politics and the budget-setting process inside D.C.: “A number of people in Washington appear to have attended the Debby Boone school of public policy, where the school song is, “It can’t be wrong, if it feels so right.”

Well, says Daniels, it’s not enough for a program to feel right or to have a nice title to receive funding, particularly this year. Why, he asks, are there 10 departments of our government in 48 separate programs that try to train people for jobs?

“If we’re going to take a tax dollar from a citizen in Indiana or any other state and spend it on that program, at some point there must be a reckoning, there must be an accounting,” Daniels said.

“And if the performance isn’t there, we ought to be looking for a better place to make that investment.”

Sound advice. He calls it “redeploying resources for success.” Business management guru Peter Drucker calls it “organized abandonment.”

Daniels and others have observed that on Sept. 11, the two World Trade Center towers were not the only structures that were brought down – the twin towers of America’s fiscal health and strength were leveled at essentially that same time.

The budget crunch trickles down, as Ohio faces cuts to statewide agencies and offices, and nearly every Ohio county is reassessing spending in a year of less revenue. Likewise, I don’t know of any farm or household that isn’t trying to curb excess spending. It may feel right, but that doesn’t mean that it is right.

Redeploying resources isn’t easy, but as broadcast journalism giant Edward R. Murrow once said, “The one excuse history never accepts is difficulty.”

Between 1939 and 1942, federal spending on nondefense purposes was cut by 22 percent, and by 37 percent within the next two years. In 1939, three hallmarks of the New Deal – the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Project Administration and the National Youth Administration – represented 13 percent of the federal budget. All were gone four years later.

Very sobering in this year of farm bill renewal and debate.

Any program, be it local, state or federal, needs to show real and measurable results. And that statement is also true for your farm business practices and habits. We have reached the day of economic reckoning.

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