Monday, July 25, 2011

Which America needs to tighten it's belt?

It's the economy, stupid!

We need to tighten our belts. We need to limit spending. We need to be responsible and not leave our children with massive debt.

Sounds like a broken record, but it's something we can all agree on. We keep hearing that our government needs to act like the millions of families in America who are tightening their belts. They're getting thrifty. They're carpooling. Or cutting back on the family vacation this year. Or buying store brand cereal instead of name-brand.

I agree. That's a great policy to have. In general. As a country, we should spend tax dollars on what is needed. Our spending should be efficient. We should be getting the most out of our budgets.

But that's only part of America.

All this austerity-speak seems to be speaking to the parts of America who have jobs. They are still able to pay their bills. They are able to access health care because they have insurance. Maybe they have a high deductable, but they can pay it. They have homes that are not under water, mortgage-wise. They are consuming. They're going to the mall, debating between this name-brand sneaker and that one for their kid going back to school. They're eating out at nice restaurants. They're still vacationing, only less extravagantly.

But what about that other America?

You know the one. They one you're not hearing about on the news, but you probably know someone who lives there. They've lost their jobs. They've lost their home or they owe more than the house is worth. They're applying for food stamps or medicaid for their kids. They're not going to the doctor or are facing medical bills which will bankrupt them. They're worried about filling their child's belly at night and wondering if all the cuts at the school will result in a child who won't be able to compete for any but the most menial of job. They're probably feeling ashamed and worthless and they may have turned to drinking to numb the pain. And vacations? The extended one they've had since the last layoff is quite enough, thank you.

For so many families, they're out of belt to tighten.

These families would like to hear their elected officials - the President and both houses of Congress - talk about how to get our people back to work. They want to hear how their kids who are graduating from college will be able to find jobs that will allow them to pay off those student loans. They certainly don't want to hear how their parent's Medicare is going to be stripped down so much that they have to bury their parents sooner than necessary.

Maybe after this America gets back to work we can talk about belt tightening. Maybe after this America is able to buy the belt.

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