Published: Sunday, March 24, 1991
THE MIAMI HERALD
BARRY Herald Columnist
leaders are working on the federal budget again. As you recall,
the last time they did this, we had a Big Budget Crisis that
resulted in -- prepare for a scary concept -- the shutting
down of the federal government. This was of course a terrible
hardship for the millions upon millions of Americans who work
for the federal government. It also inconvenienced some vacationing
civilians, because the government briefly closed a number
of national parks, which meant shutting down Old Faithful,
furloughing the federal bears, etc.
thank goodness, they worked out a budget, and the total, including
gratuities, came to around $1.3 trillion. To give you, the
ordinary taxpayer, an idea of how huge a sum of money this
is, it's almost twice what the Red Sox are paying Roger Clemens
this year. Here's another way to comprehend the magnitude
of this number: If the entire $1.3 trillion federal budget
were divided up among the 260 million men, women and children
in the United States, you wouldn't get any of it. That's why
we call you an "ordinary taxpayer."
see that the budget is very large. It would be even larger,
but fortunately it does not include the military buildup in
the Persian Gulf. The entire Gulf buildup was what our leaders
call "off-budget." This is a shrewd financial concept
they've come up with for keeping the budget in line: They
declare that certain items are "off-budget, " which
means these items are written down on a completely different
piece of paper from the regular budget, which means, as any
accountant will tell you, that they are free.
TAXPAYERS: This year, when you're filling out your tax return,
declare that a certain percentage of your income is "off-budget."
Go ahead! Call me from prison and let me know how it worked
our leaders are concerned about keeping the budget down to
the smallest possible number of trillion dollars is that they
want to reduce that pesky budget deficit. For years this has
been the No. 1 Fiscal Priority in Washington, and our leaders,
by making some Tough Choices, have whittled the federal deficit
down to just $3,000,000,000,000,00000000000000 0000000000000000000000000000000
0000000000000000000000000000000 000000000000000000 HELP HELP
HELP 000000000000000 THE DEFICIT IS OUT OF CONTROL 00000000000000000
SOMEBODY HELP ME 000000000000000000000 PUSH IT BACK INTO THE
CAGE 0000000000000000 NOW CLOSE THE DOOR (SLAM).
that was a close one! As we see, despite years of being reduced
by our leaders, the deficit is actually getting larger. To
understand how such a thing is possible, let's employ the
classic economic technique of comparing the federal government
to a woman named Marge.
say that Marge has decided, following an embarrassing incident
wherein paramedics had to employ an industrial winch to hoist
her out of a Barcalounger, that she could stand to lose some
weight. Let's also say that it's a Thursday night, which means
Knots Landing is on TV, which means that, based on
her prior performance, Marge would ordinarily consume one
Mallomar every 2.5 minutes, and even more if it's an especially
engrossing episode, like the one where Charlotte finally unraveled
the mystery of who was sending unwashed panty hose to Frank
via Federal Express. This means that Marge's projected consumption
is a minimum of 24 Mallomars.
this particular Thursday, the new, more-disciplined Marge
consumes only 21 Mallomars, a feat she accomplishes via sheer
willpower, plus six "off-budget" Ring Dings. To
the untrained taxpayer eye, Marge's Mallomar consumption still
appears to be totally out of control. But a trained government
economist would tell you that, compared with her projections,
Marge's Mallomar consumption has actually been reduced by
more than 12 percent. Good going, Marge!
is exactly how our leaders "reduce" the pesky budget
deficit -- by not increasing it as much as they thought they
were going to. And they'll reduce it to a record level when
they finish working on the current budget, which was submitted
to Congress by President Bush back in February. His budget
proposal was -- this is true -- 2,029 pages long. The mere
act of printing this budget probably cost more than the entire
War of 1812.
they make the budget so long, of course, is that the federal
government is an extremely complex entity with many serious
responsibilities, plus they want you to fall asleep before
you get to the really comical items. So on the early pages
there will be sensible-sounding items like:
the Homeless -- $27 million"
on Russia -- $387 million"
will get bored and quit reading before Page 1,893, which will
say something like:
Rutabagas In Space -- $983 million"
Congress doesn't just "rubber-stamp" the president's
budget. No sir, the members of Congress take their fiscal
responsibility very seriously, and before they spend the taxpayers'
money, they're going to want answers to some tough questions,
such as: Shouldn't we also be growing soybeans in space? What
about tobacco? Issues like these will be debated for months
to come, and before you know it they'll be furloughing the
bears again. It's sure to be a highly entertaining spectacle,
although I personally plan to watch Knots Landing.
© 1991 Dave Barry/The Miami Herald.
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