Marriage and Deficits

I like being married.  I’ve been married and single, and for me there is no comparison: my wife brings me peace and happiness, which means more to me than the do-whatever-I-want freedom of being single.  But for an individual, one always has a choice.

As a society, we’re stuck with having a government, whether we like it or not.   But is it too much to ask that my government act like responsible adults?

My wife, like many wives I’m sure, asks me for stuff.  Most of the time it’s perfectly reasonable, but sometimes she asks me for things that we can’t quite afford.

Sometimes I’d really like to get her whatever-it-is, and sometimes I’m not sure it’s worthwhile.

When I was married the first time, I tried to tell my wife , ‘no,’ and she would just make my life miserable.  She thought we were rich, and that my resources were really infinite.  So after some tension, I would give up and buy whatever it was, until I really ran out of money and credit.  And then we got divorced.

My wife today is more fiscally responsible.  Sometimes I do stretch to buy something if I think it would really make her happy.  But I can tell her, “I’d really like to do this for you, but to do it would mean that I’d have to borrow and pay interest,” and she understands. And it works: although I’m still in debt from starting my business, it’s getting paid off, and I’m putting money in the bank.

In other words, we deal with money like responsible adults.

Meanwhile, our leadership seems to be unable to exercise even a little self-control.  Most of what our Federal government spends money on is fixed by law: Social Security, Medicare, interest on the national debt.  Only a small portion can be readily tweaked from year to year.

So if the government isn’t raising enough revenue from taxes to cover its expenses, then it needs to raise taxes or cut expenses.  We all know that from managing our personal expenses.  And sometimes, in our personal lives, being responsible means telling someone dear that they can’t have what they want, at least not now.  Anyone with a spouse and/or children knows that can be unhappy.  But if you’re responsible, you know that a little unhappiness now can work out better in the long run.

But our leadership seems incapable of making hard decisions.  One can’t raise taxes, even if it’s prudent, because someone on the other side will say that it’s better to cut taxes, and enough people will believe him because nobody likes to pay taxes.

And entitlements are called–with good reason–the third rail of politics.  President Bush, back in 2004, had a reasonable idea with privatizing Social Security.  But even he could not kiss the third rail without getting badly burned.

The same drama plays out for New York State, stumbling from one crisis to another, with some faction of the legislature believing that the money will always come from somewhere.

When will they grow up?

Leave a Reply