Shut down the government?

Published 6:43 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2011

If Shakespeare were alive today, besides being the oldest person in the world, I am pretty sure he would not ask the question, “To shut down or not to shut down?”

But Shakespeare is history and the question of whether to allow the federal government of the United States to come to a screeching halt is the talk of television news shows and the opinion sections of newspapers.

Of course, the working people of the country don’t have the time or inclination to worry about whether Uncle Sam stops or not. They would not notice it. They are too busy trying to make a living, while paying the taxes that support our bloated and blind uncle.

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While these hard-working Americans have their noses to the grindstone in an effort to keep those noses above water, the politicians in Washington keep whistling merrily as they walk past the graveyard. One has to laugh to keep from crying.

I think farcical when I think of the actions of Washington. The dictionary defines farce as comedic, ludicrous, empty and absurd. The actions of those adults who are supposed to be working for us would be much funnier if the stakes weren’t so high. Here is a little of the absurdity that joins with the comedic.

Republicans and Democrats are stepping all over each other to claim the most serious attitude toward doing the right thing as it pertains to the economic plight of our country. Both sides want their constituencies to know how concerned they are. Smiling is out; seriousness is in. Spending cuts must be made.

As National Public Radio’s financial show, Marketplace, would say, “Let’s do the numbers.”

We don’t have a budget to work with because Congress never passed one. That’s always a good way to begin approaching a financial challenge. If the goal is to live within the means, the means would seem to be an excellent place to identify, but that’s not my point today.

My point is to let you know just how serious Uncle Sam is about getting this financial house in order. Since we don’t have a budget, we will use the actual spending levels from the 2010 budget as our starting point. That’s what Congress has been doing for a while. They have been simply continuing with that level of spending from 2010.

By the way, I looked up the 2010 Federal Spending Request sent to the Congress by President Obama and saw many things that were interesting, but one, in particular, that made me laugh. I guess presidents have to give a name to everything and the official name for his 2010 Spending Request was “A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America’s Promise.”

Did you catch that first part? “A New Era of Responsibility.” I don’t think President Obama is too different from other politicians, unfortunately, but how one could include the word “responsibility” in a budget that included an initial (it would grow) deficit of over a trillion dollars is pretty funny.

Just say your business had revenues of $1 million dollars. You sit down and figure out a budget of expenditures and come up with expenditures that total $1.5 million. Now, you place a name on this budget and decide to call it “My Responsible Budget.” Somebody needs to explain, to you, the word “responsible.”

Someone also needs to explain that word to Washington. They are really wrangling up there over a few billion dollars. The Republicans want to cut $61 billion from the rest of this year’s budget (which we don’t have).

The Democrats say that is too much and without any compassion to the people who need it most. They propose cutting $33 billion. They are arguing over these amounts and, if there is no compromise, no agreement, a government shut-down will result.

In essence, they are straining at a gnat while asking the American taxpayer to swallow a camel. The amount of spending that is occurring right now is at the pace of almost $4 trillion, while we are bringing into the government coffers a bit over $2.5 trillion. Our deficit this year should be about $1.5 trillion!

But don’t you worry your little minds, our leaders are going to cut some spending. They may cut $61 billion if one side gets its way. If they compromise, we may have to whittle it down by only $33 billion. Let’s put that into perspective.

Imagine a five-gallon bucket of water. Now, take a thimble if you know what I’m talking about. Dip that thimble into the bucket of water and take it out. That’s my simple analogy of the amount of proposed cuts and it doesn’t matter if it is $61 billion or $33 billion. Add them together, and then take out two thimbles full of water. Our paid politicians are really serious. I’m thinking that the foxes are watching over the hen house.

I don’t really know what would happen if the government were to shut down. Maybe it would be disastrous. Maybe we wouldn’t even know it.

When I first heard the threat, I thought about that mid-1990s showdown when Newt Gingrich was House Speaker and he was leading the newly elected majority Republicans. Then President Bill Clinton called their bluff and the Republicans came away looking foolish.

I don’t want either side to look any more foolish than they do now, if that is possible. Here is what I want. I want a reasonable budget that is based upon balancing what comes in with what goes out. Is that too much to ask?