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Federal budget: Not rocket science

The country is teetering on the brink of financial collapse. Getting our fiscal house in order is not just an economic imperative. It’s a matter of national security.

We now have competing budgets offered by President Obama and House Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. When faced with all the numbers and the sheer size of the federal budget, the average citizen may be tempted to throw up his or her hands. Don’t despair! It’s not rocket science.

Our national budget is not all that different from that of the average family. Just scratch out the zeroes and break it down into manageable parts.

A family is faced with fixed expenses. In Washington, it’s called “mandatory spending.” Next come the absolute necessities and discretionary income. Your fixed expenses are the notes you’ve taken on that have to be repaid: your mortgage, car loan, minimum credit card payments, etc. Next you have the necessities, which can be tweaked, like utilities, transportation and food (not the kind you’d like but the kind you need for sustenance). Lastly, we have our discretionary income, which has to cover everything else.

The Republicans in Congress have the budgetary “nuclear” option at their disposal! Let them know you expect them to use it by sending a message to all 241 GOP House members via the “No More Red Ink” campaign

The “everything else” includes trips to the dentist, shoes, clothes, school supplies, etc. and those emergencies that always come. No family can stay on sound financial footing without an emergency fund. Guess what? Our government doesn’t have one.

When a family is sinking deeper into debt and facing insolvency, some major adjustments have to be made. That family must eliminate all unnecessary spending. No eating out (beans and rice at home), no new clothes (or pots and pans, towels or sheets), no cable TV, no movies, no vacations, no iTunes and just basic phone service. No wants, just needs.

If there still isn’t enough money left over to cover the fixed expenses (mandatory spending) and basic necessities without borrowing, something must be done on the mandatory side. Sell the cars and get a used “beater” car you can afford, or two if there is absolutely no way to exist with one. 
Next, sell the house and get one you can afford or rent. If you are upside down on your mortgage, do a short sell and, as a last resort, just let it go. Then, pay off the credit cards and put aside an emergency fund before adding back anything that is nonessential. It’s basic common sense.

Unfortunately, common sense is in short supply in Washington. That’s where you and I come in. We have to hold our elected representatives accountable. That means dumping those who refuse to accept the reality of our present situation at the first available opportunity. Presently, we are still haggling over whether to cut $33 billion or $61 billion (2 percent or 4 percent) from the discretionary side of the present (2011) budget. That’s ludicrous! If we cannot cut $61 billion from the present budget, there is no hope for the future.

Congress must do what a family that’s in financial difficulty must do: no more, no less. Distinguish between “wants” and absolute necessities. There is no money to fund various charities, no matter how worthy some of them may be. If the work of a charity is important enough, it will be funded by private contributions.

There is no money for entertainment of any sort, whether it’s the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts or cowboy poetry gatherings. Can’t afford it. End of story. Again, those that are deemed worthy will be supported by the public. Some will not.

There is no money for corporate welfare or agri-welfare of any kind. The government simply should not be picking winners and losers. Companies that offers a desirable or needed product or service at a fair price will win. Companies that do not will lose.

Likewise, there is no reason the federal government should be funding research or education. The former is better left to the private sector, and the latter is a job for the states. As for higher education, ever heard of working your way through college?

Everyone knows that we cannot balance our budget without going into the mandatory side of the budget and tackling the big things like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. This is like a family tackling the home mortgage and the fancy cars. In their present form, these things cannot be sustained. 
The president’s budget is a disgrace. The Ryan budget is at least a start. Putting the nation on sound financial footing is not a pleasant job but it’s got to be done.

Many families have done the hard work. Now it’s time for our elected representatives to do the same. Stay engaged!