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We’re getting by in the Lewis household during this harsh economic downturn. Not because we’re making any more money than normal, but because – as usual – we’re tightening our belts, cutting our spending and eliminating frills.
This is not an easy process because we’ve tightened, cut and eliminated for such a long time that there isn’t a whole lot left to purge from our budget. You see, we’re pretty darned good at the lost art of frugality for the simple reason that we’ve had to be.
So last February, we made the decision to get rid of our long-distance telephone service. Upgrading friends had given us two cell phones of the pre-pay kind, and we learned it was considerably cheaper to purchase a certain number of minutes every month and only call long-distance on the cell phones.
There. Between 70 and a hundred bucks a month, saved.
In this respect, I’m just following President Obama’s advice, issued during that same month of February: to tighten our belts. Gosh, I love being patriotic by reducing our standard of living. And since we’re all in this together, Obama assured us that he would halve the federal deficit by the end of his term. Of course, the deficit soared by $181 billion in July alone, so he’ll have a lot of halving to do.
But wait, there’s more. Fast forward to July 29, when Obama told a town hall-style meeting in Raleigh, N.C., “We are going to have to tighten our belt, but we can’t do it as the economy is coming out of recession.”
I see. I have to tighten my belt. You have to tighten your belt. But this administration can’t tighten up its belt until the economy is out of the recession. Uh, logic anyone? Not sure how he can halve the federal deficit by spending billions on stimulus packages, corporate and mortgage bailouts, cash for clunkers and Obamacare. But I digress.
To put this on a personal level, it’s as if the Lewis household had decided that, in order to raise ourselves out of an individual recession, we purchased a $30,000 vehicle, invested in diamond jewelry, bought a vacation home in Aruba and stocked up on high-end consumer electronics … all by using credit cards. Uh, logic anyone? Doesn’t this mean we’d be in more debt, not less? Doesn’t this mean we’d have less money for critical purchases? How can you halve something by doubling it? Or am I just being dim here?
Coincidentally, with this announcement that the government can’t tighten its belt until the economy is out of a recession, we learn that Congress was seeking funding (to the tune of half a billion dollars) for additional private jets so Nancy Pelosi and her ilk can travel in style and comfort. How nice to know that Congress is enthusiastically embracing Obama’s most recent advice and not bothering to tighten its belt.
However, with regards to expanding “Congressional Airlines,” a whole bunch of annoying fiscally conservative citizens raised such a stink that Congress backed down from its plans. But that’s OK. There’s lots of other stuff they can buy with our money in order to spend their way out of this recession. Good patriots, those congressional critters.
Meanwhile we have doubly unemployed neighbors in danger of losing their home. Second harvest food distributions are brisk in our area, where unemployment hovers around 19 percent. Donations in our church are down. People in need of money are leaving town in search of work.
Now we learn that even members of Congress are leaving town … though in their case, they’re leaving town in search of information. I recognize how critical it is for Congress to tax our minimum-wage incomes and spend our money on fact-finding missions to Australia or Hawaii in their luxurious private jets, accompanied by various spouses, physicians, chaplains and other personnel. I know how necessary it is for politicians to learn about global warming and “to monitor how federal funds are spent” (hint: Air Force planes) by hitting every tourist destination south of the equator.
Funny, I thought excessive flying contributed to global warming, but I guess I’m wrong. And of course those Nazi-like un-American citizens who have been expressing such contempt toward the legitimate needs of our government are also wrong. Don’t these cretins have any feelings for Nancy or Harry or Barbara? What a bunch of whiners the Joe Sixpacks of this country can be.
Did I mention that unemployment in our area is 19 percent?
“The biggest problem in Washington, D.C., is out-of-control spending and an unreformed, unrepentant culture of waste,” sniffs Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. “That explains the dismissive attitude of some members of Congress toward the people who are attending their town hall meetings to have their voices heard. It is a disgrace.” Sheesh, what a whiner. He just doesn’t understand how important those fact-finding missions to New Zealand or the Great Barrier Reef are to politicians’ understanding of a nonexistent problem.
I have a modest suggestion for our esteemed congressmen and senators: come down from Mount Olympus and join us mortals here in the Real World. Buy a used limo. Or get a private jet with a few miles on it already. Find your Armani suits in thrift stores. If you’re interested, I can probably assist your fact finding by getting you a local part-time waitressing position at a hamburger joint, where you can learn the joys of tightening your belts because you can’t find a job that pays better than minimum wage.
I can’t necessarily suggest our politicians drop their long-distance phone service in an effort to save money (though I can see some advantages to limiting how they can communicate). But in this era of thrift, can politicians justify half-million dollar trips so they can “gain knowledge” of something that could just as easily be learned via the Internet?
Just suck in the spending, guys. No pain, no gain. And without the pain of becoming a frugal government, we will never have the gain of a sound economy.