Here's what proponents of paying down the federal budget deficit say: Our country is going in debt, and that is a Bad Thing. If we don't pay it all off, our children will be stuck paying for it through their taxes. So to pay it off, we need to cut "entitlement" programs, like food stamps and Medicare. Raising taxes on the rich, or slashing "defense" spending, is verboten.
They often compare the federal budget situation to a family budget discussion, over the dinner table. The family has way too much credit card debt, so they need to look for ways to save money. Okay, that's fair enough. But they aren't going into nearly enough detail with it. Here are my suggestions for this struggling family's budget:
Get a job
This should be the first one on most people's lists. And if more people were employed in America right now, and paying taxes on their wages, we'd have a lot less of a problem.
Telling America's working class unemployed to "get a job," though, is like pestering this hypothetical family's 16-year-old son to put in applications to fast food restaurants, and then yelling at him when he doesn't get hired. He needs to put in more of an effort, we say! He doesn't have a job yet, so he must be just lazing around the house, getting fat on "entitlements" like unemployment checks! We need to get rid of those, so that he'll be more motivated. The lazy bum.
It just so happens that this hypothetical family's father, though -- America's wealthy class -- owns a business. A lot of them, in fact. And he's saving up a ton of money from these businesses, just like how Apple (for instance) has almost $60 billion in the bank. Why not have him hire his son? And instead of just giving businesses more and more money through tax cuts, in the hopes that someday they'll hire someone, why don't we hold them accountable for not doing so?
The federal government could even put people to work through New Deal style public works programs, if "the father" isn't going to hire anyone otherwise. Goodness knows there are places that need the improvements.
Go back to school
Okay, so the dad's hiring the 16-year-old son to work at his business. But what about the 21-year-old daughter, who can't afford college tuition?
The dad's plan is to make her give up her lunches and wireless Internet, in the hopes that this will somehow save money. But in the long term, scrimping and saving only helps when you're making money -- and right now, she's not. What she needs is a student loan, so she can afford to go to school and get a degree. She needs more debt, not less.
That's the biggest thing debt paydown proponents don't understand.
Stop spending so much on "security"
Most families want to live in a safe neighborhood, just like most countries (except Costa Rica) have a defense budget. But America's "defense" budget, which it uses to invade other countries, is so huge that it outspends the next nine countries' combined. So while some families might have a security system, or live in a gated community, our hypothetical family lives in a refurbished missile silo, complete with working nuclear missile.
I'm not saying we need to abolish the military -- my father served in the Air Force. But as long as we're thinking about where to cut, we should look at our wars and our huge network of overseas military bases, plus all the soldiers coming home in caskets. And maybe we should ask how many of those we need to keep paying for.
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- federal budget deficit