Friday, April 8, 2011

The Insanity of Budgets

Have we lost our minds?

Ok.  I am reading all kinds of things all over the news, and even more all over from comments that people have about this issue.  And, everyone seems to be twisting this issue to whatever side they are on.  The Republicans are pushing their agenda too hard and we can't approve their budget.  The Democrats are becoming the party of "no" and won't compromise.  The President wants to ensure that the military won't get paid during the shutdown. Blah, blah, blah.  Everyone has something to say, but none of it seems to be intellige - wait - I'm not getting paid?!?!

As you all know, I am military.  My family's sole source of income is from that military pay.  So, it would seem, I have a vested interest in them making a budget that works.  I should be going crazy right now.  I should be so angry with politicians and their evil Washington ways, right?  I'm not.  And you shouldn't be, either.  Let's examine the issue so that I can tell you why I am not ready to protest everything right now.

Government Budget 101

I think we need to start with a basic understanding of how government budgets work and why they are such a hot political thing.  It starts way down in some budget committee in the House of Representatives.  They go through (as far as I know this usually starts around August) and write up a budget for the government for the next year.  They put it out there for a vote, and then politicians begin adding to it.  Pet projects, money for their states to keep their voters happy, stuff promised to lobbyists, etc.  Some of it is not bad stuff.  Some of it is bankrupting the country.  But that is a discussion for another day.  It gets voted on, and if passed, then it goes to the Senate.  Same thing happens there, and then if passed, then the President signs it if he agrees and then it is law and the country can continue to run.  If not, well, we are beginning to see the fallout from it right now.

So, how does passing the budget really change the way money flows?  Well, once the budget gets passed, money then gets deposited into accounts and then the different departments then distribute accordingly to agencies who then distribute it down, etc.  If the budget doesn't get passed, the money doesn't flow, and then people aren't paid.  So, by not passing one simple bill, the effects are seen everywhere.  And the country won't function like that.  That means it's time to panic, right?  I mean, this is the end of our country!  Why is everyone only talking about some parks shutting down?

Politicians use certain stop-gap measures to keep important things functioning.  They pass other, smaller budget bills to extend deadlines for coming up with budgets, they make special bills to fund certain vital things, and they in general, spend money that isn't quite on the books yet, but once the budget goes through, it will be.  This process is very complex, and understanding government budgeting is something that I don't think anyone can fully say they completely get it.  However, the key point I want you to take away here is that lawmakers have to work to keep things going.

What is going on right now?  Why is the news telling me that Obama doesn't want our military paid?  Why does it say that Republicans are holding out on a budget deal for "pennies"?  Why can't they just talk about what is going on?  This is all part of the political pandering that I hate so much.  They are going at each other right now so that one of the parties can come out of this as the "hero" and win more votes.  That is what all the talk is about.  But I bet you already figured that out.  What you need is someone to cut through the headlines and tell you what is happening.

The President doesn't want to pay

Right now, Obama is sitting up there in the White House praying that he doesn't have to pay us military folks.  He hates us so much that he wishes stress and torture upon us and our families.  Now, let's think about that for a minute.  Even if this were true (which I really believe it isn't - especially with the work of Michelle Obama), how would that make any sense as far as trying to protect this nation and get re-elected?  It wouldn't.  So why is it in the headlines?  What story is really happening?  Well, President Obama told his Congress that if they come to him with a half-measure budget, that he would veto.  He wants the budget to be complete, and he wants Congress to have pressure to complete it now.  So, what about military pay?  As far as I can tell, if a bill is passed stating that funds need to go to accounts to make sure military still gets paid, that  President Obama will sign it.  To veto something like that would be political suicide (and that's why how he personally feels on the subject is irrelevant - you, my fellow voters, have made it that way!  Thank you!).

On the same token, Republicans are just trying to hold this budget ransom for just a couple of pennies.  They could care less about all the federal employees that won't get paid or all the services that will halt.  What's a few dollars, anyway?  Well, to the news media, $61 billion dollars may not sound like a lot, but to me it is.  Now, in the large scheme of things, $61 billion may not mean much when you are talking about trillions of dollars.  But, when I look at it, I think it is more a symbolic thing.  That $61 billion stands for a commitment to fixing the budgeting issues of the past, which I think is very important.  I think we need to start taking those risks to make sure that the future of this country is viable.  We need more of this type of thing happening in Washington, and we need to support those making it happen (and those are on both sides of the aisle - this, when you look at it, is not just a Democrat vs Republican thing).  It is tough and it is a struggle.  And if I have to go without pay to make our government start taking accountability for the spending it is doing, then so be it (although, after a couple of weeks, my bill collectors may have to go without their pay).

Sacrifice - Can you?

Bottom line, did I create this budget mess?  No.  Am I going to have to pay for it?  Not completely (thank God), but as a collective public, yes.  Am I willing to step up and do my part to curb our ridiculous spending? Absolutely.  I cannot wait to see the US with a budget surplus again (as long as we do it right).  Am I going to have sacrifice everything for this to work?  No.  Am I willing to?  No.  But sacrifice is going to be needed from everyone to make this start working the way we want it to work.  I would like to say that it's only the people that created this mess that are going to have to clean it up, but it's just not true.  We are all going to have to pitch in.  Are you ready to do your part?