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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Monday Mumblings Ponders the Debt Ceiling

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I keep reading news articles and comments regarding how easy it must be for the government to cut spending now and just sweep this whole debt ceiling thing under the carpet. It's not that easy, and I can sum it up in a single sentence:

The government is not as nimble as you or I.

Just like us, the government has legal obligations to make certain payments. Our legal obligations may include mortgage or rent, utilities, car payments and insurance. In other words, we've contracted to make these payments and pay them we must. 

What happens if you lose your job or your pay is cut? Well, you sit down and prioritize. You buy store brands, stop going to the movies, drive less, cut wherever you can. If that's not enough, you go to those folks you're legally obligated to make payments to and negotiate. We're talking a few hundred dollars for most folks as opposed to trillions for the government. Your finances are far less complex, and it takes less time for you to reorganize and be nimble. 

The government just can't switch to store brands or cut out the beer. They contract for everything. Maybe they get a deal on pencils, but in return for that deal they're obligated to buy a certain number of pencils for a certain time. They can't just stop. They can try to renegotiate the terms of the contract, just like you can try to renegotiate the terms of your mortgage. Magnify this by every government contract that's out there, and you'll see this isn't something that can be done overnight.

This is not to say it shouldn't happen. This is not to say no one saw this coming. 

But look at the magnification factor. You and your family hash something out over the kitchen table. You can do it fast. Maybe a few hours. Maybe a few days, if you need to dig up records or do some research. What happens with the government? Well, Congress generally gets involved. And you know they can't make a snap decision. When a law is passed, there's usually a date it takes effect. And what if there's a court challenge and a judge orders a stay? It's not as simple as a lot of folks make it out to be.

So why not tie raising the debt ceiling to cutting spending? Well, that's what the negotiations are about. They're arguing over how to do it. One side says we can cut spending alone. The other says sure, we can drop the beer, go for the store brands, but we also need to raise a little more cash. Come to an agreement, then you can get breather to implement those changes. It's coming to that agreement that's the sticking point.

Again, your family unit is small. You can make these decisions faster. 

Should they have not waited until the last freaking minute? Yeah. Should they compromise? That's how a representative government works, IMO. We don't all get what we want, but there should be a middle ground. It's not perfect, but that's the way it works.

How about that balanced budget amendment? Well, Congress can pass it, the President can sign it, and then two-thirds of the state have to ratify that. Good luck getting that done in two weeks. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I'm just saying it's not going to fix the current, looming problem. 

In short, there is no quick and easy fix. Both sides knew this was coming. Which side do I support? I'll keep quiet on that for now. This is just a quick post to try to explain why there's no easy way out. But when both sides refuse to budge, nothing will happen. And that can't be good.

Tags: Life Politics

Filed under: Life   Politics   Monday Mumblings      
7/18/2011 7:16:58 AM
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