My beef with the term “fiscal conservatives”

The term “fiscal conservatives” is back with a vengeance.

The phrase is often delivered by the Republican party although many “centrist” Democrats sing the song as well and know the lyrics by heart.

Here’s Mayor Bloomberg’s definition of the label (via wikipedia):

To me, fiscal conservatism means balancing budgets – not running deficits that the next generation can’t afford. It means improving the efficiency of delivering services by finding innovative ways to do more with less. It means cutting taxes when possible and prudent to do so, raising them overall only when necessary to balance the budget, and only in combination with spending cuts. It means when you run a surplus, you save it; you don’t squander it

The idea is noble – don’t spend more than we make and save any surplus for a rainy day.

That’s how I was taught to deal with my personal finances. The government should do the same, right?

But I’ve got a big beef with the term “fiscal conservatives”.

It’s ambiguous at best and misleading at worst. It sounds objective but its not.

What conservatives will tell you is that we have to cut government programs, reduce benefits (for those in our society that need it the most) and reduce the deficit.

At the same time they want to cut taxes and cut capital gains (keep in mind the poorest in our country don’t pay any capital gains tax). In essence we should spend less and decrease revenue at the same time. That’s pretty hard when you are in debt. That’s like a person with huge credit card bills and then gets their salary cut or a company with debt and then makes less revenue. Just spending less is better, we dont’ have to cut taxes as well. (i’m okay cutting taxes when we have a big honking surplus).

Anyway, the noble point is not the bad part. There is a ton of waste in this country and we need to fix that.

The bad part is when each “special interest” decides what is mandatory and what isn’t mandatory. When they try to define what we need.

There are many ways to balance the budget. I may choose to emphasize education, domestic infrastructure, protecting the environment and healthcare. Others may emphasize military spending.

So, we hear things like “we can’t pay support healthcare for our poor because we don’t have the money”

But where is the money going? It’s going to a lot of places that are open for debate. Like wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

When you do your personal budget you consider all of your annual expenses at once. You decide what is mandatory and what is optional and then you prioritize. The same is true for a startup or any company really.

But that’s not how our choices are presented. Washington DC decides what is mandatory and then they tell us they can’t afford things that most of us want.

This is backwards.

I don’t believe the label “fiscal conservatives” is objective.

It’s subjective because there are many ways to balance the budget. It all comes down to a philosophical difference of opinion about what’s most important for our country and our people.

And that’s my beef.

So, I made plans to go to lunch with Fred. And then the day before, the morning of, Fred cancelled on me. And it was the reason that he cancelled that made me realize that he was the partner for me.

He cancelled because he had forgotten it was his daughter’s graduation from kindergarten. His daughter, by the way, is now at Wesleyan. And what moved me was, this is a guy whose values are in the same place as me. He was going to cancel a business lunch with a potential partner so that he could go to his daughter’s kindergarten graduation, and that’s the moment when I knew he was my partner.

Then the iPad announcement confirmed what has already been obvious since the Kindle and iPhone. Our consumption of content is changing dramatically as the medium through which we consume it changes. It doesn’t actually matter if the iPad wins, or the Nook wins, or something from a startup wins. Something different from a laptop will be in the backpacks of millions of kids soon that will be infinitely better suited for delivering an educational experience to students. And that experience will be incredibly deep and broad, social, interactive, and dynamic.

Apple iPad

One of the most hyped products in recent memory was announced by the folks in Cupertino today. 

The iPad.

Earlier this month, I posted my wish list for this device. I got a few things but we didn’t get wireless sync or hdmi output. And it doesn’t have a built in camera. I guess that will come in v2.

But I’m getting one.

The user interface is a huge step up from the iPhone and looks amazing on the 10" screen. I’m guessing much of that touch UI will come to future macbooks and that will be huge.

I can type pretty fast on my iPhone so it’s a safe bet that I’ll be able to type faster on the iPad.

The device looks stunning. Apple claims a 10hr battery life. And it’s unlocked, no carrier contract or subsidy. Yes!

I can’t wait to use it with Twitter, Tumblr and Google Voice.

I’m always showing off pictures and videos of my kids on my iPhone. Now my friends will really have to suffer with even better slideshows :)

I don’t think the iPad can sync with the iPhone? These things need to sync with the cloud and not with each other.

It’s very cool that iPhone apps will work on the iPad. Brilliant actually. But the browser is going to ultimately win out (thx to multitouch, HTML5 and AppCache) and Safari on the iPad/iPhone/iTouch is the best mobile browser on the planet right now. That is the killer app.

Instead of the slogan “there’s an app for that”, I hope we get back to “there’s a URL for that”.

Full review coming in 90 days!

Back to the nuts and bolts of the new Google Voice web app though — it shows the coming promise of HTML5 I’ve been waiting for. Using the AppCache feature means that users can still interact with the app, even without a web connection. Local database storage for web apps is going to play a big part in HTML5 apps — it has the potential to negate the “but you need a connection” argument that has plagued web-based apps for years. With that limitation all but gone, one has to wonder if anyone can block Google Voice from millions of iPhones now? I doubt it. And more importantly, will developers embrace HTML5 as an alternative to application stores that take a cut of their efforts? Looks like phase two of the app wars is just getting started.