Saturday, March 20, 2010

A. Running a business, B. running a household, C. running a government.

Question: what do these three activities have in common? Better yet, what should these three activities have in common? I have run a small business. I also have and currently run the finances of a household. I have never run a government entity, but the point I wish to make about doing so is based upon the other two activities. The principle that I believe most strongly results in success is that one should live within one’s means. For example, consider credit cards. I currently have two credit cards in my wallet that were issued to me in 1980, the year I opened my own law firm. Never once in the thirty years since have I paid one penny of interest on these cards although, admittedly, at times I have used them liberally to travel, recreate and conduct my business affairs. Each month since the initial date of issuance I have paid off the entire principle sum owing on both of these cards. One of the most common sales pitch for appliances, electronics, furniture, etc. is that it is a good idea to buy things on time because it creates a credit rating. Other than a home mortgage, I think that advice is nonsense and is likely to doom people who fall for this sales pitch to entrapment in a bundle of accumulating debt forever. Is this beginning to sound like the various governments in all of our lives have been living for the past fifty years or so? We hear about the national deficit in the trillions of dollars, a number most of us cannot grasp simply because the sheer size of it makes our heads spin. We know that there was a surplus when Clinton turned over the country to Bush who decided to put the two wars and Part D of the Medicare drug plan on a credit card. Since then our debt has mounted tragically and drastically beyond a point that indebts each of us, our children, our grandchildren, and the kids still on the way to approximately $28,000 per person. And that is only at the federal level. We hear and read about the plight of the various states which are facing ruinous financial crises causing closing of schools, prison, massive layoffs and elimination of projects vital to the health and welfare of our citizens; projects such as upgrading and maintaining the infrastructure of our highways.

For me, I can certainly see the point and understand the frustration of the Tea Party groups. What I cannot understand is the lateness of the hour on which they decided to conclude that there was a problem. Now the average tea-partier is a collector of social security (a government expense) and Medicare recipient (another government expense), but ironically sees fit to decry government spending on the proposed health bill (which will, in fact, lower the national deficit). The question I have is what else in play here? But, back to the point. We must somehow fashion a remedy to eliminate this terrible financial plight we are in. If the government was a business or a household, this is the way it would be done. Stop spending on unnecessary items. Pay as you go. Unfortunately, we also need a large temporary tax increase to pay off the nearly trillions of dollars we have spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iran. If every American citizen was assessed an additional thirty dollars a year for three years, the money raised would nearly eliminate the federal deficit. Even the darling of the Republicans, President Reagan, raised taxes several times after his original tax cuts created a huge financial federal debt.

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