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Trimming the Budget With a Fund Razor
by Mad Dog


During this process the president tosses the word veto at them as often as he can as a threat. They think he means he wonít sign it. He actually means heíll send Vito and his baseball bat to visit the congressmen in the middle of the night. 
Itís budget time again. Not my budget time, which is pretty much a day-in day-out how-come-all-my-figures-are-on-the-expense-side thing, but the governmentís budget. By law, each January the president has to sit down with a pencil, paper, and calculator and figure out how much money we have to spend. Then he doubles it, divides by the square root of the amount his biggest campaign contributor donated last year, and adds a few billion for good measure. The result is almost always more than weíre expected to take in, which is why itís called ďsound fiscal policy.Ē Just kidding. Actually itís called deficit spending. It only sounds like a fiscal policy.

   Itís living off your credit cards, except the government doesnít have those embarrassing moments when their card is declined. Then again the government doesnít get frequent flier miles for every dollar spent, doesnít have to worry about identity theft since everyone knows what Uncle Sam looks like, and doesnít get bills each month crammed with offers for appointment calendars, life insurance, and light blue polyester elastic waist pants.

   Once the president has his budget he hands it to Congress. They scream because the deficit is so high, cut as much fat out of it as they can, bury even more fat in budgetary nooks and crannies no one would think to look in, then pass it. During this process the president tosses the word veto at them as often as he can as a threat. They think he means he wonít sign it. He actually means heíll send Vito and his baseball bat to visit the congressmen in the middle of the night. Itís well documented that President Bush isnít the worldís best speller or enunciator. Or Congress the best listeners.


The current budget comes up $521 billion short ó which is known as a shortfall, deficit, $1781.07 per citizen, or ticking time bomb ó so why not make some money by boosting sales of the budget itself? 
   If you want to check out the budget you can do it online at gpoaccess.gov/usbudget. Of course at a whopping 63.7 MB youíll need a lot of Visine. If you want to curl up in bed with it, you can buy a 1,268-page printed version for $69. Thatís pretty pricey, especially when you realize itís shorter than most Stephen King novels. Of course since the odds are slim the budget will be made into a TV movie that bears little resemblance to the original other than the title, thereís more of an incentive to read it than a Stephen King novel. Itís also cheaper than Sominex.

   Itís not easy getting your hands on a copy of the budget since itís only available through the U.S. Government. This makes it difficult for the average American to have a good, solid doorstop during the next hurricane. This is a shame, since if the government played its cards right the budget could be a profit center, and thereís no question we need all the profit centers we can get our hands on. Think about it, the current budget comes up $521 billion short ó which is known as a shortfall, deficit, $1781.07 per citizen, or ticking time bomb ó so why not make some money by boosting sales of the budget itself? After all, according to governmental math, every dollar brought in on the revenue side means two can be added to the expense side.

   For starters, it needs to be more readily available. They could start by selling it on Amazon.com, where it would show up as a ďCustomers interested in this book may also be interested inĒ suggestion when youíre looking at Personal Bankruptcy for Dummies, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, or The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction. They could also offer signed first editions at a premium price, though obviously they need to be signed by President Bush and not budget director Joshua Bolten. Nothing personal, but if it takes me ten minutes to search for his name online itís a safe bet no oneís going to pay extra to see it on their Special (Tax) Collectorís Edition of the Fiscal Year 2005 Federal Budget.


The government should hire a ghostwriter, someone to spice it up a bit. Sue Grafton could turn it into D is For Deficit.  And Michael Crichton would have a winner on his hands if he rewrote it as Jurassic Pork.
   Next, they need to sex it up. Budgets donít make for fun reading, as any couple who has sat at the kitchen table hashing theirs out until one of them winds up sleeping on the couch will testify. Face it, 1,268 pages of dry figures is something only an accountant could like, and even then only were they billing someone for their reading time. The government should hire a ghostwriter, someone to spice it up a bit. In fact, they could get different writers to do individualized versions. Sue Grafton could turn it into D is For Deficit. Danielle Steel could make it The Promise Ė Part II. And Michael Crichton would have a winner on his hands if he rewrote it as Jurassic Pork.

   Illustrations would be a nice touch. You know, livestock in the agriculture section, planes and bombs in the defense section, and a pork barrel next to the local projects which exist solely to thank Congressmen for their votes. Right, like a thank-you note wouldnít suffice. Come to think of it, they definitely should put a photo of a pork barrel in there since Iíve always wondered what one actually looks like, and that would mean I could write off the price of the budget as an educational deduction on my taxes. While theyíre at it, why not drop a few cartoons in to take the edge off the incredibly serious drabness, designer covers to spiff up the outside, and maybe include a CD of Willie Nelson singing The Beatlesí Tax Man.

   If they did a good enough job, and each American bought one at $69, that would eliminate $20 billion of the deficit. It wouldnít solve the deficit problem, but it would certainly be a start. At the very least it would let Congress add financing for another much needed project, like a ship dry-dock in South Dakota. That is, if there isnít already money allocated for it in that cranny on page 1,164.

©2004 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read them, at least they're shorter than the federal budget.

 

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