What the federal government can learn from household budgeters
In the week since sequestration-mandated budget cuts went into effect, I've gone out every morning to see if any bits of sky were lying in my yard.
So far, nothing.
President Obama, other Democrats, and their pet media seem perplexed by this development -- as well as by the overwhelming apathy most Americans feel toward this supposed fiscal apocalypse.
Apparently, we're having difficulty perceiving a 2.4 percent budget cut as a big deal. Many of us have had to cut our household budgets a great deal more than that since Mr. Obama took office.
Just in the past two months, for example, I've seen my take-home pay fall by about 5 percent, due mostly to increased payroll taxes and rising health care costs. Yet somehow my family has managed to weather this storm without any interruption of vital services.
Maybe that's because, as someone who has had to balance a budget for 30 years, I understand what's vital and what isn't.
Here, for example, are some of the services that, despite budget cuts, we continue to fund in our home -- what those of us in fly-over country sometimes refer to as "necessities": food, mortgage, car payment, utilities, Downton Abbey Season Three DVD.
Of course, we have had to cut back in other areas. For instance, there's this family down the street that's been trying to kill us for years. In an attempt to dissuade them, I send them $200 every month, which they use to buy guns, ammunition, and explosives so that one day they can kill us.
Because I can't afford $200 a month, I borrow half of it from this guy who's secretly plotting to bankrupt me and take over my property.
By eliminating that $200, I not only help balance the family budget, I also keep us from going deeper into debt and decrease the likelihood that we'll be killed or bankrupted.
In addition, we have deleted the following line items from our monthly budget: "Oral Calcium Anti-Deterioration Compound," for which we were paying over $20 for a 6-ounce tube, and "Post-Colonary Waste Removal Material," which costs about $10 per roll. We discovered we could make do with toothpaste ($3 a tube) and toilet paper ($.50 a roll).
My teenage son was slated to receive $5,000 to conduct a three-month study into the reproductive properties of sweet gum balls, but that project got the ax, too. Guess he'll just have to rake them up and bag them without ever understanding their scientific origin.
And finally, after an internal audit, I discovered that for the past 10 years I've been paying an allowance to three kids I never had. So I cut that, too.
I know I can't draw too many parallels between my household budget and something as big and complicated as the federal budget. After all, there's at least one major difference: my household actually has a budget.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and author of Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp, and visit www.familymanthebook.com.