Budget Woes

Being on the road to marriage introduces one to a number of things; wedding planning, cake testing, furniture searching as a couple (and all that registry stuff too,) to name only a few. When you have two individuals coming together, you are bound to have a difference of opinion over some issues at least, and marriage and marriage planning tends to show at least a few of those. So when only two people create potential for conflict and differing tastes, it would seem logical that an entire body of political figureheads attempting to work together (they say) would have a bit more conflict than two people in love and actively trying to put the other first.

One more thing that gets brought up both in marriage planning and congress; a budget. Money is here to stay, and a potential source of great conflict. In order for a finances to be healthy, you need to spend as much or less (preferable less) than you take in. At least, thats how it works for most of us. A budget can help immeasurably; they tell you what you do with the money you expect to take in. Once you know what your money in is, you can use that for money out; ie, food, rent, gas, and entertainment. If you are careful and forward thinking, save a little for a rainy day (and a lot for when you retire and social security a ghost of Christmas past) in case that rainy day happens to be a poor economy that kills off your job and you’re unemployed for a few months or years. This is sound advice in any marriage and works just as well for singles/unmarried, and even businesses and any organization that uses money.

For a budget to work though, it requires work. There needs to be a budget in the first place to work off of. If you only guess that you need X and that it’ll cost you Y this week, you’re going to end up forgetting a lot, unless you have eidetic memory something most of use are not blessed/cursed with. Once a budget is formulated and tested to work well (you’ve accounted for most unusuals and all the normal expenses of living) you’ll have in effect spend all the money you make for that period of time you budgeted. This is ok, because knowing where your money goes means you can move bits of it elsewhere as you wish to eliminate unnecessary spending.

In addition to work, a budget required patience and self-control. Even if you have a wonderful budget that is workable, lets you save a healthy amount and spend on what you’d like for entertainment, if can still fail if you cannot control your spending. Impulse buyers especially have difficulty reigning in their wants to what they have afforded themselves. Sometimes, on the other hand, an unforeseen expense will crop up that needs to be payed for, and the savings tank is running on empty. One the one hand, charging is an easy and immediately fairly painless way of covering it, but leaves you with dept that needs to be payed for later on. Or you can cut out discretionary spending, tighten up your belt a notch or two and try to cover it by your own financial power. This latter option means a bit of hardship in the immediate, but no longer consequences.

The government, which is a very real kind of marriage, missed the budget session in marriage counseling. The government gains access to funds to spend primarily via taxes and fee’s, and then decides to label those funds as “income” in a manner I personally find distasteful. But the term fits for a budget, which it has. The lesson it missed, however, is that concerning self control and moderating its spending when a shortfall (that time when your income is exceeded by expenses) occurs. See, the government is blessed with the ability to both make money, and increase its income almost arbitrarily; it can decide to increase taxes. And so, when a shortfall occurs, congress will increase taxes and charge the remainder.

Congress, ironically, while being the branch of government to formulate and first vote for a budget, rarely manages to do so on time. The process is that of a squabbling husband and wife, played by the fiscal conservatives and fiscal liberals in it fighting back and forth over what they want in the budget, each threatening to delay the process until the country goes bankrupt, as nearly happened in the last year. For those making the budget, or rather, not making and passing a budget that will ultimately not be held too, there is no penalty for failing to do so, meaning it is governed by people who aren’t being forced to live by their choices and decisions, as everyone else is.

The result of this irresponsible circle is twofold. The national debt, which defaults to each citizen of America (not any illegal immigrants or legal visitors/residents) leaving a huge strain on the nation’s economy. And taxes go up, meaning that strain felt by the citizens from the debt is made heavier by a diminishing of their take home pay. And yet the government feels that this is alright, as long as only a select group of those there pay. Not themselves who actually make the laws, and not their staunchest supporters, those who benefit the most for the myriad of social programs for the poor, but the rich and middle class.

Without the self control to limit its own spending, the government will be long in ending or limiting its debt, if it ever chooses to do so. I have, in my moments of daydreaming of an America without debt, formulated a plan to solve this problem of government overspending and failure to create a budget on time. I also realize that this will never happen, so bear with me. A constitutional amendment to

Congress shall, at least a full month before the fiscal year ends, create and pass a budget that shall cut 5% of the national debt during the upcoming year. That is, the budget shall be balanced and not add to the national debt in any way, and include 5% of the national debt (at least) as a line item to be applied to the removal of the national debt. The first year this legislature goes into effect shall set the low point for this line item for the next 20 years or until the debt is eliminated. Any tax increases shall permanently be applied doubly to each current member of congress until they are revoked, this increase applies to all forms of income; salary, capital gains, or otherwise, all as applicable.

In addition, should congress fail to pass the budget on time, the personal assets of each member of congress shall be held in balance of any deficit that occurs over this time. Any shortfalls that occur during the year shall likewise be paid for by congress out of their own pockets.

Over the next months, I may expand on this idea, but it will be an idle work. The likelihood of any appreciable change being effected by this is microscopic at best. But one can still dream. For now any way.

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50 Under $5

In just under 6 weeks (40 days today to be exact) I’ll be getting married, and shortly thereafter, we’ll be headed off to school as a newly wed couple. I do not expect the economy to take a flying leap out of the water during or before that time and right itself, so it’ll be fairly likely that my then wife and I will be surviving on what might be called a limited income. This means Anna and I will both have some incentive to be a bit thrifty and creative. I am therefore starting a themed series of posts, though this may be as long (read: short) lived as some of my previous series. Nonetheless, I shall try, and as ESPN says, you loose 100% of the leagues you don’t sign up for (which means I’ve already lost thousands of leagues this year, despite the 10 I’m in…)
The Mission: Over the next year or so to make 50 dinners or weekend lunches, averaging $5 or less per person fed. Challenge Mode: $5 for the total dinner (assuming two diners).

My mother used to play a game with herself and the grocery bill; figure out how much she spent, per person, on the meal she was preparing, typically dinner. Then, at dinner, she’d ask us all what we thought. For the record, I have three younger brothers, all growing up to be giants among men (apparently I missed that gene) and so my mother had herself and five male stomachs to feed, no mean feat to be sure. And she would amaze us, time and again that this delicious meal (my mother is an amazing cook, and I thank God she passed some of that to me) was made for less than a fast food meal.

Now certainly, the more people you cook for, the easier it is to the get average down, because buying in bulk is a good thing. And yes, prices have risen dramatically over the past X number of years, making some of her feats truly difficult to match. But I’m going to try.  Or do, as Yoda would prefer, as there is no try not. The next year will show me highlighting here about one meal a week where I try especially hard to make it at under 10$ for a full meal, with parts of the food pyramid not composed entirely of fat and sugar, two of my favorites. I’ll try to have 3 colors at the least, and use as fresh foods as I can. I’ll recount my efforts, note the recipes I used (or scribe them down when I make them up myself) and break down the costs I encountered here.

And I’ll kick this recession and eat my cake too.

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Responsibility

Responsibility. A single word drenched in meaning, and evocative of all that a generation stood for, and all that one seeks to shirk. People are judged, rightly, on their actions, both in the judicial system, and in the public’s eye. But should people be judged on what they do not do? Perhaps most notably, certainly one of the most visible situations of the last few decades, was in the death of Princess Dianna, when numerous paparazzi stood in the aftermath and collected pictures rather than attempt to help. That she was later found to have had little to no chance of surviving the crash (her seatbelt wasn’t engaged) was generally lost and the paparazzi villainized.

Throughout history events have unfurled where a population or person stood by in place and watched or allowed some event happen later considered evil by many. The Holocaust left many in horror, not just at the atrocity itself, but that it happened. In the americas, and much of the rest of the world, human slavery has been or once was allowed and even promoted. Witch hunts and other similar inquisitions swept through europe with nary a word spoken against them.

Fear, apathy and malice are but a few of the reasons behind such sweeping “evils.” Apathy is the most insidious, perhaps, and allows the host to feel vindicated for not participating, but to benefit from continuing in a kind of status quo, not risking harm to themselves. But inaction allows for more action, and the fallacy of apathy is that by removing even their voice, that freedom Americans especially claim to hold so dear, they are in fact complying with the scheme of those moving forward with their plans.

A lie of omission is a more deliberate example of this problem, and in American courts punishable. Both sides of a trial have the opportunity to omit information to the other side, evidence that legally must be shared. If it is not, then the evidence frequently is withdrawn from consideration. This precedent, I believe, is just. Inaction is a form of action. Reasonable effort should be given when called for. In today’s world of politics especially, those who do not vote, should have no voice to raise when things don’t go their way. By refusing to vote, they have said they do not care to influence the world around them and by extension are fine with how things turn out, however they do.

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Old People and Things That Go Vroom!

They say, whoever “they” are, that you get wiser as you get older. You’re eyes also start to go, along with the rest of you, proving, perhaps that balance does exist in the universe on some level. But a curious statistic exists, and stereotypes are drawn from it, as stereotypes are wont to do; unless you are middle aged and have been driving a while, you’re rather likely to get in an accident of some sort, and it will likely be your fault. While young drivers are given most of the blame and certainly penalized the most, the elderly as well merit some attention, as well as those in between.

A bell curve of sorts exists; those young drivers, so reckless and unpracticed, in their bright red cars and raging hormones, will get into crashes almost regularly, and older folk will sometimes forget their first days driving and point to immaturity when mishap happens. Ironically perhaps, young drivers grow up to matured middle-aged drivers, cruising around in cars their younger selves thought wasted on those too old to have any fun with.

And they drive generally well, according to that almighty god Statistics. But then Irony lends her hand and Chaos takes it to create the more than mature driver. Many do not fully notice this transition, and certainly many or maybe most older drivers continue to get better with age, as some things are like to do. And they just keep on getting better, that ticket they used to get every year or so for speeding now comes only on every third year, when they forget to use the turn signal, or it plain malfunctions and you’re handed a write up for maintenance.

And life goes on perfectly fine until grandpa drives through farmers’ market. Or grandma doesn’t realize that that speedbump a few moments ago was actually someones stroller, thankfully devoid of its human cargo now crying in mother’s arms. Senses begin to fail and so will memory. Glasses, once needed only for reading, now are all that keep them going on the road, and focusing from near to farther distance is hazardous at best. Hearing may have gone a bit so that growling Harley you once loved to ride, isn’t even noticeable next to you and may become the victim of an accidental sideswipe during the changing of lanes.

Time is a cruel mistress, prone to handing maturity and frailty in the same basket, but not always. Occasionally, she smiles on a favored friend and grants the former without the latter. Just as some young drivers may put their elders to shame with road etiquette and good skills, so may some senior drivers continue driving along with not a mishap, perfectly aware of the road and all they need to be fine drivers.

The most important means of keeping the roads safe is the training of good driving skills, the encouragement of maintaining those skills, and honesty. All relationships at some level need honesty to be maintained and survive, and flourish. The road is no different; it is a common ground to all walks of life, even to those incapable of driving themselves, either to young, or old enough to have surrendered the reigns. Honesty of when that time has come to give them up is important, and should be the first judge of when someone stops, not a law.

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On Abortion

Today, the case of the unborn fertilized human embryo is under hot debate. To one side of the argument, called the anti-abortion or “pro-life” camp, the embryo is an unborn baby, brimming full of life and practically pleading to be brought to term and then birth. The other side, the abortion right’s or “pro-choice” camp, labels this embryo as a fetus, frequently in an unfavorable light. The past forty years in America has seen a see sawing of public interest and involvement intros issue. Briefly, I will establish a case for the unborn fetus as a person to whom constitutional rights ought to be extended.

Most important to this argument, perhaps, is the question of when exactly a “person” ceases to be a fetus and becomes a baby, or more simply, when a fetus becomes a person. Pro-choice advocates will claim that until the mother’s body has been evacuated, the unborn fetus is not a person, and so afforded none of the rights they would extend to a truly living, breathing human. Pro-life advocates point to the unique DNA of the baby, created or blended from mother and father at the point of inception months or weeks previously. Considering that this same DNA is used by law enforcement to track down both criminals and missing persons, this is a fairly strong claim to life, eventual life at the very least. Later on, fingerprints and a heartbeat begin to show up in this unborn person.

Less important than the realization of life and individuality, but nonetheless of great importance to this debate, is the classification of person in a constitutional sense. While the constitution itself does not specify what exactly a person is, and indeed, the matter of that question has been in a state of flux since the constitution’s inception, there does exist some precedence to aid the answering of this question. With the exception of corporations, all persons influenced by the constitution are human. A seemingly trivial point this is, but important nonetheless; voting persons were only landowning white men once upon a time. This bottlenecking of voters has gradually been expanded upon, first to those not land owning, then to men of all ethnicity, then finally to women. With the vote, comes an inevitable expansion of rights to the new group.

But the right to vote is not the mark by which a human is granted the benefits of the constitution, rather it is a benefit to some of those who are affected, a subgroup of the true body of persons. Without doubt, once a baby has been born (and at the very least at this moment the word is the appropriate term to use) it receives constitutional protection. Abortion itself is illegal in America after this moment, and termed murder and infanticide. This reversal is disingenuous; for more than a month before “term” a baby that is born has a fairly decent chance to live given even a relatively normal level of care. Even significantly before term can a baby survive if given the attention and medical aid.

Because there is no doubt as to the eventual form of a fetus, that is a fertilized human embryo, is in fact a human being that will generally become a functioning member of society at some level given the opportunity to life, I feel that a fetus/baby/fertilized embryo ought to have the very same constitutional rights afforded a born baby, at the very least.

(This was a short paper for critical thinking, written at night with no proofreading, so yeah…)

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Path of the Gods

So, one of the game’s I’m running on Myth-Weavers just started, and as a sideshow to the actual game I’m writing a narrative to show the progress of the trio of gods who just managed to save a few of their people from a fallen planet. In a move somewhat reminiscent of the Biblical Account of the Tower of Babel, a number of the survivors were shunted across space and time into a new world, where they were dropped into groups of about sixty by race. Sadly, the halflings didn’t make it. This act should have burned out entirely the two gods taking part in it, and did kill all the mortals involved, but something happened…. Read the rest of this entry »

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Stuff I learned in China…

As some who check in here on a monthly/weekly/biweekly basis know, I recently spent three weekend in China on a business trip with Wasco, the place I work. I learned a number of esoteric, trivial, and helpful tips along the way, along with a mix of all of those things (because those people who need to know those esoterically trivial yet also helpful tips I learned are either in possession of said knowledge or won’t ever read this). Fun fact, the period goes *outside* the parenthesis at the end of a sentence most of the time. Go figure, only took me 23 years to figure that out. Without further ado, here are a few tips and trivia.
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