What should we do about the federal budget?

Over the last few weeks, there have been several articles about federal spending on this page.  Squeaky had an article about waste and Zarberg wrote about the magnitude of the defense budget among other things.  I wrote responses to both articles, not particularly well written responses.  In this article I will attempt to only address the fiscal issue of the budget and not try to apply a justification aspect.

My basic comment is STOP SPENDING.  When I look at what our government has done over the past 50 years, I see the same pattern regardless of the party of the President or the composition of the Congress.  Each year, there seems to be a push to buy the votes of a specific part of the population.  In each effort, we see the budget exceed the income except for a few years in the lat 1990’s (and I would contend that this was actually accounting slight of hand).

Right now, today, we have an enormous deficit.  To remedy this, our government is spending more money.  When you or I are faced with such a short fall, we generally do not think SPENDING FRENZY, instead we cut back on the things that would be nice to have, we replan the things we need in the long run and we concentrate on what is most important today.  I will give some personal examples.

I would like to actually go on a vacation.  I want to update my kitchen.  I need to replace the windows and doors in my house.  I need to cut down 4 trees that are too close to my house and are damaging it.  Right now and for the next 8 years, I need to help my kids through college.  Each month, I need to pay for food, mortgage, gasoline, insurance and clothing.  That pretty much sums up my expenses since I have paid off my car.

I could get a second mortgage on the house and pay for the kids’ college.  I could take a third mortgage to pay for the rest.  But what do I do when my car wears out?  I will have spent all of my income and all of my credit.  Instead, the windows and trees will have to wait.  The vacation, along with the kitchen, are not even in the plan.  Right now, today, I am keeping the family housed, clothed and fed while the kids attend college.

Our government, like many people, just gets more credit and more loans.  The latest version of this is the plan to make it easier for small businesses to get loans, not help them get out of debt, mind you, but to get further into debt.

I know we need a military, but really, do we need the G.I. Joe with the Kung-Fu grip?  Yes, health care costs are getting high, but do we need to pay for everyone’s prescriptions?  Yes we have several industries that have been mismanaged and are failing, but does our government have to throw money down that drain as well?  And to make matters worse, there is no real way to understand what is actually happening unless you spend hours reading the congressional record and the Wall Street Journal and listening to the BBC, since the rest of the American media has become a headline buffet with lots of calories but no nutritional value.

Here is an example to cover both my rant on spending and the lack of reporting.  Late last week, Fox news reported that 2 democratic Senators held a session and passed a 600 million dollar package to fund border security.  The headline would make you think that there were no rules and the spending was out of control.  A more in depth report was published in the Wall Street Journal describing the unusual event.  It turns out that the Senate had already passed the bill by an overwhelming majority (there are in fact rules but the spending is still out of control), but since it had a funding section, it had to have been passed by the House first.  Since the votes were out of order, to save time and money, two senators returned to Washington D.C. from their recess to clean up the paper work.  It just turned out to be 2 democrats; there was not evil plot after all.

Regardless of how many times it is said and who says it, you cannot spend yourself out of debt.  What our government need to do (and I blame our congress for failing to do this, both parties) is to sort through all of the programs and prioritize.  They have to live within a budget just like everyone else.  Sure each of us will complain when our pet program gets a reduction or is deferred to later years, but there has to be some effort.  This will take time and a lot of negotiating, but that is what we hire our Senators and Representatives to do.  Besides that, we need to stop blaming the President.  He suggests actions through policy statements, but he cannot initiate a singe piece of legislation as President (although this President could have started every one of his programs two years ago when he was in the Senate).

Write your congressman.  Let them know what you want, fear, think.  They want and need to know.  If he or she consistently fails to meet your expectations, then you protest by voting.  If you do not get involved, then only the lobbyists will have their ears.

My basic philosophy is fiscal conservatism.  I believe that if you reduce spending and reduce the amount of money the federal government needs, the economy will grow and the federal government will get more money for the things that are really necessary.  At the very least, only spend what you can afford.  In either case, I get back to my original rant; STOP SPENDING!


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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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