Congress Needs To Do Their Job

September 26, 2011

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Yet again this last week, congress considered a funding bill. This one was to provide continuing budget to the office of emergency management. There was a great deal of talk, for anyone still interested in listening, about how there could be no opposition to this bill as it was to help the poor people suffering from the flooding in the north east. The bill failed, mostly because it was not just funding for the stated problem, but also because the flooding was minor compared to other disasters that have not been addressed by the federal government, notably the fires in Texas.

The problem is not that this bill failed. It is not even that this bill was proposed. The problem is that congress has failed to address a fundamental duty of that body. They have not passed a budget. This is now coming up on two years and two separate congresses that a budget has not been established.

Why is a budget so important? The budget establishes what the government will spend. Any new projects have to find funding. It allows the various contractors who support government programs plan staffing and activities. The largest of these that the press reports on is the military, but that is now less than a third of the budget. There are a large contingent of non-government workers supporting social and infrastructure programs as well. Without a budget, governmental departments are supposed to continue to spend at the level established the previous year, but some things, such as the medical program known as Obama Care, have never been baselined and are therefore not under any fiscal control.

What about the continuing resolution that was passed last month? Actually, that was a basic duck and roll. It was more about raising the debt limit than providing budgetary guidance to the departments. It was as surrender to the cry of imminent disaster. In fact, if the continuing resolution had not been passed and the debt limit had not been approved, the government would have continued pretty much without effect on 99% of people. There would have been mandatory reduction in all departments, social security would have continued without interruption (it is a separate tax) but the big effect would have been zeroing out spending on all non-baselined activities. Obama Care and any remaining funds I the bailouts would have been deleted. Basically, everything that the last two congresses have passed but not budgeted, would have been halted.

I am not going to discuss whether these projects should be funded, that is the debate that the congress has to have. What I am condemning is the apparent abdication of responsibility of the congress to pass a budget and hold the government to some sort of spending control.


Congress Needs to Balance The Budget

August 4, 2011

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My kids love the idea of a credit card. You walk into the store; you pick out what you want, slide your card, sign the screen or receipt and leave. In their minds you never have to pay for it. They don’t see the bill that comes 30 days later. They don’t understand that when I’m sitting at the computer I’m using bill pay to funnel money from checking or savings to the credit card. The concept just won’t click in their beautiful (but naive) minds.

The idiots in Washington apparently don’t get it either. The difference is that they’re not six years old, they’re not cute like my daughters and those idiots are elected to not spend us into bankruptcy. I understand that everyone has “pet” expenditures. Some items mean more to someone living in Pigsnuckle, Arkansas than they do to someone living in Intercourse, Pennsylvania. However, in the act of cutting budgets, not everyone can win. There always has to be a loser.

What I don’t understand is why some people can’t see the importance of trimming the budget. Maybe it’s the accounting side of me, but if my family had a budget of $100,000 and I made $75,000 I would be worried. How long could we sustain that? Not long with the amount of savings that we have. We certainly couldn’t borrow money for 50 years without making changes.

So, why do we expect the government to do it? Where do we expect the money to come from? If they print more money, the currency just drops in value, so that does us no good. If we borrow more money from China we just incur more debt and have more interest to pay. No one likes it, but we have to trim spending significantly. I’m thrilled that the parties and the president have been able to come up with an agreement, but this is just the start. Wait until government healthcare kicks in, do you really think the government is going to make money with it? I would be thrilled if we could break even with it, but that isn’t going to happen.

The economy is weak; many businesses are making less money which means they pay less taxes which means that the government is taking in less revenue. To better determine what that means to us, remember the formula:

Revenues – Expenses = Profit (or loss if negative)

Try not to freak on me, but this is not just a democrat/liberal/regressive problem. I read a few weeks ago that spending has not shrunk since 1955. I don’t know if revenues increased every one of those years, but I would doubt that we hit an increase every year. Why would any congress or any president think for a moment that it was OK to continue increasing spending every single year? Why do we want to build a ridiculous amount of debt to pass on to the next generation? Doesn’t anyone realize that there will be serious repercussions if we can’t fix this spending mess that we are in?

In a few months I will be turning 40. As I approach middle age, I naturally start to think about what kind of legacy I want to leave behind. I have been thinking about my career, my personal life and how I conduct myself on a daily basis. What will my kids remember about me when they’re 40, 50 or 60 years old? What will their lives be like? Will they have the same opportunities that I have had? Are we going to hit another massive depression? If we don’t begin to act responsibly with our money, I think a very bad recession or even a depression is very likely.

Let my ADD kick in for a moment on another budget related item. Have you seen the article about free cell phones in Pennsylvania? Yes, there is now public aid so that people can have a free cell phone and 250 minutes each month because it’s a civil right. It’s paid for by the Universal Service Fund that is included on your cell phone bill each month. It’s yet another example of people latching on to the community tit, sucking it dry and you’re paying for it.

The time for fiscal responsibility is now. Demand it. That being said, all you’re going to hear is how bad the conservatives are for wanting to cut program costs. Those damn conservatives have no heart. They take advantage of people and don’t want to help anyone out. Well, truth be told, we’re just trying to live within our means. Obviously, we have a problem with that in this country and it’s time for everyone to learn what it means.