Archive for May, 2012

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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