Living Within Whose Means? Sep21

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Living Within Whose Means?

As many of you know, we are in the midst of a very controversial Election Season.  Our two candidates are busy crossing the nation, spreading the word about their fiscal, social, domestic, and foreign policy agendas.  Not many of us have the time to keep up with all of the details but I think it’s important to spend a few moments thinking about how our lives will be impacted when we vote for either of these candidates.  As James Carville famously coined in 1992, “it’s the economy, stupid”, I thought a discussion of fiscal policy would be a great place to start.

The Bible has much to say about money, budgeting, giving, and saving.  My focus today is on budgeting and the idea of “living within our means”.  This is somewhat of a foreign idea to Americans in general as we are a consumer society with a “buy now pay later” mentality.  But God’s Word has a much different message:

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Luke 14:28

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.  Proverbs 22:7

The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.  Psalm 37:21

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.  Proverbs 13:22

Pondering these Scriptures, I can’t help but think of how backward our country’s fiscal policies have become.  Words and phrases like “debt ceiling”, “federal deficit”, “debt crisis”, “runaway spending”, and “fiscal cliff” are all parts of the current national commentary.  Unfortunately, not many people understand what they imply or how these affect us.  I decided to do a little financial research of my own on the Congressional Budget Office’s website and I created a chart to help make these figures easier to understand:


The U.S. Budget for 2011 – Congressional Budget Office

U.S. Tax Revenue:                       $2,302,500,000,000
Federal Budget (spending):       $3,598,100,000,000
New Debt added (deficit):          $1,295,600,000,000
Debt Held by Public:                $10,127,600,000,000

For greater understanding, let’s remove 7 zeros and pretend this is your family’s household budget:

Annual family income:                                   $23,025
Money the family spent:                                $35,981
New debt on the credit card:                        $12,956
Outstanding balance on the credit card:  $101,276

 

Most of us can understand that operating with a budget like this would be unsustainable for any family, and would quickly lead to bankruptcy and long-term financial ruin.  I think most would agree that this kind of lifestyle is irresponsible and damaging to those within a household.  Unfortunately, the leaders of our country have not been good stewards of our money, our children’s money, or our grandchildren’s money.

Our government continues to grow at a historic pace, expanding entitlement / benefit programs with virtually no plan to adequately fund them.  At the end of 2001, the year that President Bush took office, the U.S. Total Debt was $3.41 Trillion.  At the end of his second term in 2008, Total Debt had risen to $5.8 Trillion – a 70% increase over 8 years.  At the end of President Obama’s first year, 2009, he had ratcheted the debt up to $7.54 Trillion and onward:


U.S. Total Debt – Congressional Budget Office

2009:   $7,544,700,000,000
2010:   $9,018,900,000,000
2011:  $10,127,600,000,000
2012:  $11,227,600,000,000*

*estimate based on $1.1 Trillion new debt – CBO

 

From the time that President Bush left office to the end of President Obama’s first term, President Obama will have raised the U.S. Total Debt by 93.6% over 4 years.  This increase in spending is unprecedented.  “Federal debt held by the public will reach 73 percent of GDP by the end of this fiscal year — the highest level since 1950 and about twice the share that it measured at the end of 2007,” said the CBO in their Budget & Economic Outlook: 2012-2022.

Many people will argue that under both Presidents, increases in spending were both necessary and “the right thing to do”.  Under President Bush, the vast majority of our debt increases were attributed to entering the War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and increasing our military intelligence around the world.  Under President Obama, the majority of our debt increases have been attributed to economic stimulus packages and expanding domestic entitlement / benefit programs.  No matter what the reasons or good intentions are, our national spending habits have us on a course toward complete financial destruction  – please see Greece for a current and very real example.

These types of fiscal policies are not only Biblically wrong, they are universally immoral because they saddle our children and grandchildren with the consequences of our financial irresponsibility.  We need strong leadership to rise up in our households, our communities, and our nation, to put us back on a budgetary path that focuses on living within our means.