Once upon a time, figure skaters paid for their sport, including a small annual dues paid to the national governing body so that there would be rules and officials. If somebody won a title, a medal was awarded; for more important titles, it was a metal cup, presented at the rink where the event occurred. U.S. Figure Skating’s headquarters consisted of about one third of a den in a volunteer’s home, including the filing cabinet.
Movies and ice shows brought the public interest along with public money, a trickle of which filtered down to the sport’s government. It moved from the den into a rented office. TV coverage and sponsorship opened the spigots, pouring money into the sport as a price for permission to cover its events. The headquarters moved from Boston to Colorado Springs, in a two-story building including a museum employing several dozen people to administer what essentially amounted to the same activities originally supervised from the volunteer’s den, though with growing numbers participating.
While this was going on, it seems to me, the same parabola would describe-fairly, I think-the U.S. government’s growth. A long time figure skater said that it wasn’t obvious how the lot of a participant actually changed much during all those years. The rewards of a world champion certainly did, but there aren’t a lot of those. And as a U.S.citizen, it’s not obvious to me how my lot has been improved either, at least so far as government is concerned.
Now U.S. Figure Skating is defunded by the loss of the TV contracts and Congress is defunded by the loss of tax revenues that used to be higher when the economy was healthy. The folks running the sport are keeping up their international travels to nice places for skating events without income to support them just as Congress continues to spend money it has to print or borrow to fund its own habits. It can be hard to distinguish a U.S. Figure Skating Director from a Congressperson… But the skating folk will soon enough spend down their accumulated savings while Congress can go on until it ruins the currency. Either way is an end, of course.
If you were running Figure Skating, you might be looking for more economical ways to operate the headquarters and simpler, cheaper ways to hold events. You could research the early years of that den in Boston to see how they did it then. And work toward those goals, reducing the spending at a manageable rate before the savings are all gone, maybe even leaving a little for emergencies to come. But the current crop of Directors don’t seem to see that; maybe it’s too complex a concept. Congress, were you there, might use a similar approach to the country’s finances, right? But our Congressfolk don’t seem to get it, either.
It looks to me like two houses with the same infection, both in need of cleaning. For the same reasons: the welfare of the skaters and the citizens that was supposed to be the rationale of those put into charge has somehow been jettisoned along the way. And nobody is going to put it back into the mix unless the skaters and the voters respectively do it for themselves. How far downhill will things have to go before that happens?