Honey, We Need to Talk

…about our spending.  The Free Agent’s eyes glaze over when budget talk gets into trillions and hundreds of billions of dollars, but as the responsible adult she is, she has an iron-clad grasp of her own household spending.  Let us now gather round our national dining room table and evaluate this year’s federal spending in terms of our median household income, $46,326.

The most obvious problem, dearest, is that this year we will spend $62,414, which is 35% more than our income.  And since we’ve been spending more than we’ve earned for all but four of the past thirty-two years, well, not only is our total debt just short of an entire year’s earnings, but just paying the interest every year is costing us $4,484.  It’s hard to see how we can ever get our heads above water without drastically altering our spending.

$20,267 of that spending is discretionary.  The biggest part, $12, 264, is for our defense, which we can all agree is important, one of the very few parts of our budget, as a matter of fact, that we’re even legally required to finance.  Still, with wars in two countries and 761 (or so) bases in foreign countries, well, we are only responsible for our own defense, right, honey?  We kept the cold war from turning hot and don’t really face any of the kind of land-based clash of armies we’re staffed for, so what say we have a block meeting and talk about the neighbors paying for their own security?  The Free Agent will bring her renowned Seven Layer Dip.

The other $8,003 we have control over is, well, there’s a lot of nonsense in there.  Since the President has insisted in his budget notes that we must eliminate ineffective programs, he’s probably planning on sparing us the entire $839 we pay the federal government for the department of declining standards of education, as well as $782 for housing and urban development.  Oh, it can seem like nit-picking, in the big scheme of things, a mere $335 for something as fun as NASA doesn’t seem too important, but remember, darling, that all those eggheads could be contributing to the economy in more useful ways, perhaps still even in space exploration, if only they weren’t being tied up by the federal government.

Well, sweetheart, I’ve been avoiding the most dire of conversations: your mother.  The third of our budget your little Free Agenty-poo has been talking about so far pales in comparison to what’s euphemistically called non-discretionary spending.  7% of our income goes to interest on our debt, as I’ve already mentioned.  Well, that’s just a little less than we’ll pay for Medicaid this year, and we haven’t even dealt with the new health laws.  But still I tiptoe.  It’s nothing personal, you know I love your mother, but how can we provide for ourselves when $21,917 is scheduled to go to her retirement and health care?  I know she was promised this money and even contributed a small part, but the payout is just not possible and we are going to have to deal with the reality sooner, I hope, rather than later.  The only bright spot is that the median net worth of her age group, 65+, is $232,000, much more than ours, $35,375.  We promised to take care of her, honey, and we meant it when we said it, but we simply can’t swing it.

Whew.  I’m glad we had this talk.  I know we haven’t made any hard choices yet, but it feels good to put these things on the table.  Next week, the cable bill!

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