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Thursday, February 08, 2007
When I was teaching back in the '90s I was one of the few professors on faculty who had "real world" experience. Therefore, many of the examples put forth to my students were from the real world. In one of my classes, before we began learning budgeting, I would ask the students what the current "budget surplus" meant (under the Clinton Administration). Most of them thought that we had wiped out the multi-trillion dollar national debt, many of them, that government was managing their money very well.

It wasn't until they began to learn what a budget was and how it worked that they understood the reality of it. By the time we had finished the module, they realized

1. that budget deficits were bad for America because our government was spending more than they were taking from us and

2. a budget surplus WAS BAD, BECAUSE THEY WERE OVER TAXING US, TAKING MUCH MORE THAN THEY REALLY NEEDED. On a personal level, many would consider this theft.

Of course, instead of giving the money back to us, cutting our taxes, or paying down the national debt, the politicians quickly adjusted their new budgets to spend the money and tagged on an extra percentage or two to make sure it didn't happen again.

Most of our perspective on budgets come from what politicians tell us and what media chooses to report.

When analyzing budgets one has to always be aware of bias. Its like most of us do when we do or don't want to buy something and we're justifying the decision to our spouse. If we don't want to buy it, its $10.00! If we DO want to buy it, its $9.99.

President Bush presented his budget which is as ridiculous in its scope as every budget in this nation has been for decades. That being said, the opposing politicians and media decide to report it in such a way to promote their agenda. Here are the tricks to look for.

Budget Cuts

Usage: "President Bush made "budget cuts" to Medicare."

The reality is that the Medicare budget was increased, but the percentage increase this year may be 9% as opposed to a 10% increase last year. Notice that they do not use whole dollar amounts for their illustration.

Increased Spending

Usage: "President Bush has increased military spending by 60 billion dollars"

The reality MAY be, that the spending increase was the accustomed 10% increase like every year, but inconsistent with the above, they do not report that there is no increase in the budget or if the % dropped by 1% that it was a "budget cut." Notice that they use whole dollars for their illustration. (Note: military spending did increase as a percentage with the new budget, but the above is just for example).

The only way to know the truth is understand a little about budgets and go to the source and find out for yourself. But maybe that is expecting to much from America's lazy population who would just have the answers (right OR wrong) fed to them.

For further info:

posted by Jack Mercer @ 2/08/2007 08:35:00 AM  
  • At 2/08/2007 10:03:00 AM, Blogger Smorgasbord said…

    Quite unfortunately, that is too much for most of the American public. Even the somewhat thoughtful members.

    It’s understandable to a certain degree. Government has gotten so mind-bogglingly enormous that, to most people, it is totally overwhelming. Personally speaking, I do budgeting for a living so I don’t mind researching that aspect, but there are many areas of my own government’s reach that I know precious little about. I wish I knew more about foreign policy, for instance, but I’m not going to go studying UN resolutions over the past 50 years. I’ve got a job, a family, and hobbies. I’d love to know more about the effectiveness of domestic programs, but I don’t know if there’s even an “honest” assessment of that out there…

    Point is, the beast that is American Government perpetuates its own exponential growth by, well, growing; all the while closing out the public and fostering apathy. It’s a sad state of affairs, really. Only half the people vote, and half of those have no idea why they’re voting. I guess people like you and me, Jack, will just have to keep plugging away and trying to keep each other honest. It doesn’t really amount to anything on a large scale, but it’s all we can do until others catch on.

  • At 2/08/2007 10:05:00 AM, Blogger Smorgasbord said…

    As an aside, whatever setting you have your blog on sure has a hard time with apostrophes and quotes...


  • At 2/08/2007 10:14:00 AM, Blogger Jack Mercer said…

    i know, Smorg! its driving me crazy! I don't quite know what to do with it.

    i do know that when i copy and paste into the blog it renders the ''s and "'s differently--I just wish i could do something about it.

    on the other hand, i'm glad you got the point about the Bush budget--I don't agree with it, just don't like the spin that is often associated with it. when i was teaching, whenever the clinton budgets would be released there was nothing but glowing praise. of course you know that what i like least in this world is inconsistency (a trait i abhor in myself more than anything). its just like watching chris matthews interview a republican vs. a democrat--politicians from both sides deserve hardball, but every time a democrat is on his show promoting a liberal viewpoint, chris all of the sudden puts on a skirt. this is often the reason that i have plenty of fodder here to poke fun of at the Snipet.

    problem also, smorg, is that people make decisions and judgements based on others' decisions and judgements without checking them out. its time we start taking responsibility for what we promote. (starting with me.)

    good to see mochi back posting. hope NL's if firing back up!



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