When one first looks into today's fiscal problems, it is easy to react in irritation. How could those huge deficits develop? Why is the budget so big and so far out of whack? Why hasn't all the talent in Washington straightened out the mess?. . . .

Why don't politicians make better use of their idea people to help them "tell it like it is" to the electorate?. . . .

Part of the fault lies with "we the people." Too seldom do we speak to our representatives as individual citizens and taxpayers. Too often do we implore them through pressure groups. It is not surprising politicians can come to believe the nation is a collection of lobbies.

The agendas of each interest group are frequently focused to a white heat on specific items of spending. The budget is sometimes said to be a sum total of what "the people" want. But it is more nearly a sum total of what the pressure groups demand. Each group cares everything for its own agenda and nothing for the combined cost of all agendas. The result is a budget whose cost startles us, and whose imbalance between what is being spent and what we are willing to pay is dismaying.

The public and those we elect are two of the forces at work on the budget. But there is a third force, whose importance rises to the point of dominance in programs so technical that only the experts are said to understand them. This is the force of those hired to deliver the program, whether as part of the bureaucracy or through government contracts. In huge areas such as defense and health care, service professionals call the shots to a much greater degree than we often realize.