Learning to live with less: A lesson for government

My husband and I have been in a bit of a funk lately. Like many others, I was laid off from my corporate, college-degree-justifying job back in January and have been trying to figure out what the road ahead should look like ever since.

I know that my story is not unique, and I don’t say this in some misguided quest for sympathy. Most of us have had to make adjustments to living in a time of recession. Some more than others.

For my family, this means eating at home, clipping grocery store coupons and keeping a close eye on our budget–all things we did very little of before. We don’t shop for superfluous extras like unnecessary clothes or gadgets, and we’re much more likely to be camping or relaxing at home on the weekend instead of taking an expensive get-away.

In all honesty, I’ve learned to appreciate this new perspective. It makes me grateful for the rare times that we do “go out” and more careful of our possessions. I’m more likely to bypass unnecessary luxuries and recognize that my life is full and wonderful despite the lack of professional pedicures and designer purses.

Countless Americans are in the same position. Learning to do with less, remembering how to save money and control their consuming impulses.

So here’s my question. Why, when we’re pinching pennies and clipping coupons, is our government not following suit?

Oh, I know the answers about how health care reform will cut costs. I know that we’re supposed to be stimulating the economy with the stimulus bill and resuscitating the car industry with Cash for Clunkers. But is that what is actually happening?

When you found yourself in this new economy, perhaps with a shaky future, did you run out for a shopping spree to make yourself feel better? Most of us probably didn’t even stop at a Starbucks for a four-dollar latte, but kept on driving, thinking we can make coffee for a fraction of the cost at home. Suddenly our savings accounts and spending habits need review, and we are willing to make sacrifices for the good of our futures.

The disturbing thing is that even though we are doing all we can to save and get through this, our country may be in even deeper trouble, because of overwhelming debt and spending. Take a moment to look at this website: http://usdebtclock.org/.

It’s mind-boggling, the amount of money that we are hemmoraging as a nation, and instituting more government programs will only make the problem worse. Right now, the estimated Medicare fraud is at just over $39 trillion dollars. If fraud is this out-of-control with a relatively small program, how can we hope to keep it in check with a larger health care overhaul?

Besides health care, the Waxman-Markey climate change bill passed a few months ago has been largely ignored by an overwhelmed American people. We’re busy saving money and worrying about our jobs and families, so ill-conceived, economy-draining bills get shoved through Congress. The president himself admitted that under cap and trade “energy prices would necessarily skyrocket.” Is this what we need right now?

Contrary to what you may think, I’m not writing this as an upset, vindictive Republican. I’m well aware that many of these mistakes were begun during Bush’s tenure.

However, I’ve realized the value of saving money and looking to the future in the last six months. I’ve seen how fiscal responsibility is important in my own life, and I’m wondering what makes it so different on a national scale. I know that I include a lot of links in my blogs, but take a moment to click on them, and make up your own mind.

Personally, I think we need to approach government spending similar to that of our private lives, as I shared in the beginning of this post. Even though we are in a recession, we have inherited great wealth as Americans and have been able to do plenty of good with it. Now, let us be careful with how we proceed toward the future. Proverbs 21:20 says: “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” Many of these recent bills and ideas in government have been pushed through quickly, and I think it’s important that we slow down and strive to be wise and diligent in our resources. As Proverbs 21:5 says: “The plans of the diligent lead to profit, as surely as haste leads to poverty.”

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  1. Monique Davis said:

    I agree. It’s a shame that we have the mentality that we should spend, spend, spend instead of save for times like these. Great article that should make us all think.

    August 26, 2009
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  2. imabeliever said:

    Great article! I totally agree with you when you say it’s mind-boggling, the amount of money that we are hemmoraging as a nation, and instituting more government programs will only make the problem worse. I am trying to do the responsible thing and save for my future and retirement. I want our government to be equally responsible. As you point out, the estimated Medicare fraud is at just over $39 trillion dollars. If fraud is this out-of-control with a relatively small program, how can we hope to keep it in check with a larger health care overhaul? How is this being responsible? Just a look at the debt clock will make your head spin!

    August 28, 2009
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  3. altfreq11 said:

    Dani Nichols said: “The disturbing thing is that even though we are doing all we can to save and get through this, our country may be in even deeper trouble, because of overwhelming debt and spending.” Dan Nichols, as her column proves, is no economist. However, Paul Krugman is: “So new budget projections show a cumulative deficit of $9 trillion over the next decade. According to many commentators, that’s a terrifying number, requiring drastic action — in particular, of course, canceling efforts to boost the economy and calling off health care reform. The truth is more complicated and less frightening. Right now deficits are actually helping the economy. In fact, deficits here and in other major economies saved the world from a much deeper slump. The longer-term outlook is worrying, but it’s not catastrophic. The only real reason for concern is political. The United States can deal with its debts if politicians of both parties are, in the end, willing to show at least a bit of maturity. Need I say more? Let’s start with the effects of this year’s deficit. There are two main reasons for the surge in red ink. First, the recession has led both to a sharp drop in tax receipts and to increased spending on unemployment insurance and other safety-net programs. Second, there have been large outlays on financial rescues. These are counted as part of the deficit, although the government is acquiring assets in the process and will eventually get at least part of its money back. What this tells us is that right now it’s good to run a deficit. Consider what would have happened if the U.S. government and its counterparts around the world had tried to balance their budgets as they did in the early 1930s. It’s a scary thought. If governments had raised taxes or slashed spending in the face of the slump, if they had refused to rescue distressed financial institutions, we could all too easily have seen a full replay of the Great Depression. As I said, deficits saved the world. In fact, we would be better off if governments were willing to run even larger deficits over the next year or two. The official White House forecast shows a nation stuck in purgatory for a prolonged period, with high unemployment persisting for years. If that’s at all correct — and I fear that it will be — we should be doing more, not less, to support the economy. But what about all that debt we’re incurring? That’s a bad thing, but it’s important to have some perspective. Economists normally assess the sustainability of debt by looking at the ratio of debt to G.D.P. And while $9 trillion is a huge sum, we also have a huge economy, which means that things aren’t as scary as you might think.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/28/opinion/28krugman.html?_r=1

    August 30, 2009
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