Hello my friendly neighborhood bus compadres!
Today, we’re kicking off CIVICS 101 – a fellows guide to all things politics by breaking down all of the fun things your parents like to read about in those ridiculously old fashioned things called “newspapers” (who knows, maybe they have an iPad – but since I don’t own one myself, I’ll just assume your parents don’t either).
Our first amazingly exciting topic: the BUDGET! Dictionary.com defines budget as (painstakingly and boringly as possible as) “an estimate, often itemized, of expected income and expense for a given period in the future.” BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, WHO CARES RIGHT?
Well, I do – and you probably should, too. When talking about government and politics the budget IS government and politics. The budget outlines what our society and elected officials decide what’s important to spend money on, whether it be schools, roads, to give to hospitals, and as well as benefit programs that you probably hear your grandparents complaining about: Social Security and Medicare.
(The irony in this photo is overwhelming.)
So think of the government’s budget like the people’s bank account (not related to “the people’s eyebrow”). You put money into your bank account from the wages you earn; the budget puts money in its coffers from everyone’s wages through taxes. To continue the analogy, when you spend more money than you have in your bank account you go into overdraft; similarly, when the government does the same thing through spending more on policies than it receives in the amount of tax dollar$ it goes into a deficit. When you’re taking in more money than you’re spending, it’s called a surplus. A surplus is great because it can be used to pay back debts, which our country currently has almost $16 Trillion of (and yes thats Trillion with a “T”).
(Cue angry Republican baby.)
In reality, our national (sometimes referred to as the federal) government takes on so much debt because our individual states (read: the great state of Washington 🙂 simply can’t. Each year the states are forced to balance their budget – so in tough economic times (hey that sounds like today!) they are forced to cut spending on programs that people benefit from (Did your college tuition go up? I’m sure it did!). By sheer miracle, while in office former President Bill Clinton actually created a budget surplus on the national level by raising taxes and cutting spending!
So that’s Civics 101: The Budget. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org