Unbalanced budget

January 26, 2010 12:37:26 PM PST
It's always instructional - and depressing - to ruminate over the federal budget estimate numbers. What's the old saying about a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it all adds up to real money?

You have to have that attitude when you peruse the budget's bottom line.

In a nutshell: The federal government expects to take in $2.2 trillion for the current fiscal year that ends in September. It expects to spend $3.5 trillion. You don't need a Harvard MBA to do the math, and figure that you are going to be about $1.3 trillion in the hole.

And by "you" I mean us. All of us. Each and every one of us. $4,400 for every child, woman and man in the country.


If we ran our family budget like this, we'd be at federal court, filing for bankruptcy protection.

ABC News business reporter Betsy Stark did the math: If the typical family did what the government is doing, she says, and spent 62 percent more than it earns, it would be spending $81,502 on income of $50,303, running an annual deficit of $31,199.

Not exactly how my dad taught me to balance the household checkbook.

Making it even more contrasting: The typical American family is now saving nearly 5% of its income - which means they're saving about $2,300 of that 50-grand in income. That's a huge turnaround, because of the recession. Americans learned their lessons the hard way - spending their way into debt and bankruptcy and foreclosure.

The government doesn't have to worry about that; I mean it should worry about it, but it doesn't have to. It can simply print more money.

And there is a bit of good news in the estimate: last year's deficit was $1.4 trillion.

Of course sometimes government spending is the only way to jumpstart the economy. The Obama White House was going to do that, and create jobs. Its spending, however, seemed more limited to the big banks and car makers, who had handfuls of gimme and mouthfuls of much obliged.

Joblessness is still hovering above 10% - and there are now 8 applicants for every new job that opens up (and there aren't that many new jobs opening up).

So what to do? Mr. Obama, after a year of missteps, seems to be heading back to Issue Number One: The economy. Now he's talking about putting a spending freeze on programs - exempting the military and homeland security. Liberals are up in arms; conservatives - ever quick to blast the President, even when he acts conservatively - say the money amounts to a drop in the bucket.

We'll have the latest on the President's plan, and the economy, tonight at 11. We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports.

I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.