Politicians say that solving government budget problems should be like discussions of family finances at the kitchen table. I've tried to imagine what it might sound like if today's government finance debate were an actual family conversation.
Head of Household: We have a problem with the family budget. Uncles Fred and Joe have lost their jobs, and we don't have as much money coming in. We can float them a few bucks to help them get by. Then, if we cut out health insurance, we have enough to pay the mortgage, but not enough for the lights and heat.
Uncle Phil, do you think you could kick in a few dollars more to cover the bills?
Uncle Phil: Heck no. I am a Job Creator. I need every dime I have to create jobs.
Uncle Joe: I don't see you actually creating any jobs.
Uncle Phil: Can't help it. I'm overregulated.
Held of Household: Phil, really! You're making more money than ever. But OK, we can stretch the budget by not paying the light or heat bills and worry about it when they threaten to shut off the power and heat. So I guess that is what we do.
Uncle Ziggy: I have one more item for the budget. I need millions of dollars for a new doghouse.
Uncle Fred: Why do you need a new one?
Uncle Ziggy: I am bored with the old one.
Uncle Joe: Why not build it yourself? You have the money.
Uncle Ziggy: I could kick in a little something.
Head of Household: We don't have money for the heat and lights. How are we going to come up with millions?
Uncle Ziggy: Now, I don't want to be mean about this, but if I don't get what I want, I am leaving the family. And I'm taking Fluffy with me.
Everyone else: Don't take Fluffy! We love that dog. He's part of the family. People in the neighborhood don't know our names, but when they meet us, they say, "Oh, you're the family that lives with Fluffy."
Aunt Susan: Why don't we pool our money and buy Fluffy from you?
Uncle Ziggy: No can do. You see, I belong to National Fluffy Lovers, and they prevent me from selling Fluffy to a group of lowlife rabble. My superrich friends at the NFL make up the rules and well -- other families across the nation pay for new NFL doghouses.
Head of Household: Well, any suggestions?
Uncle Ziggy: I do have a Cousin Irv who would be willing to build a gambling hall across the street.
Uncle Joe: My marriage was ruined by a gambling addition.
Aunt Mary: No. You're thinking about that gay couple that ruined your marriage.
Uncle Joe: The gay couple had nothing to do with it. It was the gambling.
Head of Household: Maybe we should get the whole family together and have a vote.
Aunt Mary: Yes, we should vote to see if that gay couple has the right to be a part of our family.
Uncle Fred: OK, we can vote on the gay thing, but we don't have time for a vote on Fluffy. (Sobbing) I just couldn't live without Fluffy.
Head of Household: I don't know. This kind of seems like crony capitalism or even extortion. Some family members may protest.
Uncle Phil: Protesters? That's what pepper spray is for.
Uncle Ziggy: You know, I hate to say it, but it sounds like you don't really love Fluffy.
Head of Household: We do love Fluffy, but ...
Uncle Ziggy: It's best to not think too much about this. Go with the flow. Find a way to give me my millions. Fluffy stays, we vote on kicking the gay couple out and everybody is happy.
What say? Done deal?
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Edward Wons, of Minnetonka, is a consultant.