In discussing the recession, I keep hearing an argument that I call the "Household Budget Analogy," cited  as justifications for the Republican obsession with cutting budgets. In essence, the analogy likens our national economy to the domestic budget of a single household. When times are good, the argument goes, a household can enjoy the good times. When times are bad, we all have to tighten our belts and live within our means. By analogy, when times are bad for the country, we should tighten our collective belts, cut the deficit, live within our means, wait for the recovery to come and all will be well with the world.

The analogy is very homey and easy to swallow, but as persuasive as it may be, 1) it's only an analogy and 2) the analogy is based on a myth.

Even at the individual household level, when times get rough, we don't just tighten our belts, reduce our spending and wait for things to get better. Instead, most of us roll up our sleeves, assess our alternatives and look for ways to make things better. Sometimes, that means working harder and sometimes it means taking on debt to get through the rough patch. But, we rarely say, "I dont have the money so I won't feed and clothe my children," and it certainly doesn't mean that we happily embrace homelessness. Many children (far too many) go hungry many of our citizens are homeless, but few go down that road voluntarily. 

On the national level, austerity economics is not just wrong, it is insanity.It is particularly insane when our elected officials put corporate profits and tax breaks for billionaires before educating our children and keeping our streets safe.

So how should the "Household Budget Analogy" really go? When times are bad, we do whatever it takes to take care of our families . . . to feed and clothe our children and to keep a roof over their heads. To keep them in school so that they will have a future and to keep them safe from harm. By analogy, when times are hard for us as a nation, we should make sure that the poorest of our citizens are fed and housed. We should make sure that our schools stay open and that they are adequately funded. We should make sure that our streets are safe. That's what we do at a household level, and that's what we should do as a nation.

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    My name is Richard Bullock. I practiced law in Illinois until I retired and moved to the southwest in 2002. I currently teach mathematics in Bullhead City, AZ and live with my wife (also a teacher) in Laughlin, NV.


    July 2012
    June 2012