We Can Think of 535 Ways to Cut Government Spending

by David T. Bruce

House Speaker Boehner tells us that it is “time to focus on the real problem here in Washington and that is spending.” We couldn’t agree more, Mr. Boehner. How we disagree, however, as do a great many Americans, is how spending should be reduced.

education_deathThis sequester will force federal job cuts in the hundreds of thousands, affecting civilians and military alike. Education in America will further erode, as children will be cut from Head Start programs and teachers and aides will lose their jobs. The mentally ill, the disabled and the elderly will also be impacted, as funds for health and food services will be eliminated or reduced. Are these truly the people and services that are a priority in terms of cutting the federal deficit?

Those most affected are those that are already reeling from an economy that has never quite recovered from the Great Recession, except in the eyes (and the coffers) of those who work on Wall Street. Those most affected are those who already have little or nothing, who have been literally dealt a poor hand.

Doug Bandow, a contributor to Forbes.com, illustrated a variety of ways that our government is wasting money:

 “The Department of State used $306,000 to bring European college students to America to learn civic activism” (we need an exchange program for this one).

“Columbia University collected $606,000 for a study of online dating” (perverts).

“The federal government cut a check for $550,000 to underwrite a documentary on the impact of rock and roll on the collapse of communism” (hell, if that worked, I can think of another government at whom we could sling our guitars).

“A federal grant for $765,828 went to [. . .] bring an International House of Pancakes franchise to Washington, D.C.” (this requires no punch line).

Instead of wasting millions of dollars (which quickly adds up to billions) on discretionary and frivolous spending, why don’t you try balancing the budget (we call it penny pinching in the real world) without passing the buck(s) to the rest of us, asking us to pay for your ill-considered spending?

Instead of pointing fingers at one another, ask yourself what good you have done recently for your constituents and for your country that didn’t somehow benefit you. Instead of chiding or punishing the poorest of Americans (by eliminating support programs) who you believe have made poor decisions that have lead them to fiscal ruin, clean up your own act and demand the same from government employees who are sending billions of dollars in improper payments and overpayments out the door.

We cannot be the only ones sick and tired of the endless bickering that occurs on Capitol Hill. The only time our representatives take a break from throwing stones at one another is when they need time to rebuild their forts, preparing for yet another election year. While our elected representatives engage in yet another pissing contest, the working men and women whom they are elected to serve (those fortunate enough to still have jobs, that is), further struggle to make ends meet in the land of the American nightmare that is politics as usual.

Fiscal Responsibility – A Lost Art

by Shadra Bruce

debt-1376061_1280When Dave’s corporate job was lost through downsizing and reorganization in 2004, we decided together that corporate America wasn’t the right fit for him. When my “atrocious boss” (as our kids like to call him) threatened to fire me for using my own earned sick leave to care for our ill children in 2007, I joined my husband in corporate refugee status. We’ve never been happier.

We both went back to school, earned degrees, and made plans for a new future.  Dave was going to teach and I was going to start my own freelance writing business. Dave is now certified to teach and substitute teaches for the local school because there are no full-time teaching jobs. I am successfully building a small writing, editing, and social media consulting business, and our two incomes adequately support us.

We do, however, live frugally by choice and by circumstance. When there’s money to spare because I’ve had a good month, we first pay off a little more of our debt. If there’s still some left, we travel, spoil our kids, or sneak in a date night. When money is tight, we don’t get to write a new rule that says we can increase our debt limit, nor do we write bad checks that the bank has to cash. Like most American families, we simply tighten the belt and do without.

Our federal government could take a few lessons on survival in the real world, from this example and that of thousands of other Americans who have made similar strides and sacrifices. You see, when others talk about “tightening up the budget,” they suggest things like “only get your hair done every 8 weeks instead of every six and you’ll save $500 a year” or “Take a brown bag lunch to work twice a week instead of eating out and save $800 a year.”

We already live more frugally than that, as do many families. When someone needs a hair cut in our household, they climb up on a stool in the kitchen, and I take care of it. We don’t eat out even once a week, let alone daily, as is the custom for many elected officials. It is possible to live with one vehicle or no vehicle at all, and if we can walk to the store or post office instead of drive to it, we should.  Many Americans live without the perks that are afforded to those people we have elected to govern and enforce our laws.  Our government, of course, doesn’t run that way.   Now if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, who will be hurt? The aged and disabled people who will not get their Social Security checks, mostly.

But this isn’t about raising the debt ceiling; it’s about stopping the special interests and corporations that have transformed Congress into personal bankers.  In the short term, we’re going to have to raise the debt ceiling or face even worse economic trauma. But in the long-term, America (at the individual level and the national level) needs to learn not just to live within a budget but to prioritize things other than their own special interests.