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Insanity-based budgeting

Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

The household budget of Howard and Ima Bashford was out of control, and the two sat down at their kitchen table to hash things out.

“We’re spending too much on hash,” declared Howard. “Why, my calculations indicate that by the time the year is complete we will have spent $1,000 on various brands of canned, chopped corned beef.”

“But you like hash,” said Ima. “You like it as much as I do.”

“I’m not blaming you,” said Howard. “I’m as responsible as you are. Besides, it’s tasty and nourishing – especially with a fried egg on top. Nevertheless, we’re going to have to cut back.”

“Agreed,” said Ima, smacking her palm on the plastic tablecloth. “I propose that we cut our hash expenditure by $100 next year.”

“That’s great!” exclaimed Howard. “A real savings of $100 will really help our budget. Of course, we have to recognize that spending $900 is still a heft outlay.”

“Excuse me – $900?” said Ima quizzically.

“Yes, $900,” replied Howard, bemused. “Subtract $100 from $1,000 and you get $900.”

“No, no, no,” said Ima, grinning. “Subtract $100 from $1,200 and you get $1,100. We had projected a hash expenditure of $1,200 next year, so a $100 cut gets us down to $1,100.”

“But that’s not a cut at all,” said Howard. “It’s a $100 increase.

“Not the way I see it,” said Ima. “I had planned to spend $1,200 on hash, so spending only $1,100 means we have saved $100. I don’t see why it should be a difficult concept.”

“Difficult? Not at all!” exclaimed Howard. “In fact, it’s brilliant. Why, if we apply such thinking to our entire budget, we can save thousands of dollars – millions, even – in the coming years. All we have to do is project huge increases, then cut thousands from the projections. We’ll be rolling in disposable funds in no time.”

He jumped out of his chair, pulled Ima from hers and danced her around the kitchen.

“Now, Howard,” Ima said giddily, “you do realize we’ll have to borrow to have enough to spend at those reduced levels.”

“Sure, sure,” said Howard, “but this means I’ll be able to buy that power boat I’ve always wanted.”

“And I’ll be able to buy a new wardrobe,” added Ima.

They stopped dancing and sat down, breathing heavily.

“Still, for some reason the plan makes me a bit uncomfortable,” said Howard, “but when you think about it, it’s how they budget in Washington, D.C.”

“They’ve been making a hash of things there for decades,” said Ima.

And the two shared a hearty laugh.


The Washington, D.C., budget charade would be worth a hearty laugh – if it were a stage farce. But the fact is the monumental “cuts” discussed in the national debt debate are, in fact, reduced increases.

And even the more rational of capital players are trying to sell the idea that the federal budget should be something like 18 percent of gross domestic product, as if that were a magic number, below which government could not function. In fact, it is a kind of magic number – one that assures that as the economy grows, government will grow, too.

All in favor of a simple budget freeze at the current level, stand up and shout – and start shouting NOW!


Moving to the center? Many middle-of-the-road California voters may have cast ballots for Gov. Jerry Brown in the hope that he was not only older but wiser and would join them in the center. Vain hope!

In the last several days, Brown:

So, Jerry hasn’t learned from his failed state Supreme Court appointments of Cruz Reynoso, Joseph Grodin and Chief Justice Rose Bird, whose rulings were so insane that even California voters couldn’t stomach them. All three were tossed off the bench by the voters.

And Jerry hasn’t learned that the people don’t really like the radical left – to which he clearly is drifting as he enters his second childhood at the Capitol.