Federal Budget 101

As an instructor I’m a big admirer of people who find ways to make information understandable–isn’t that the job of a teacher? While the following email crossed my screen from a political perspective, I was impressed with the simplicity of it and how “eye opening” it is. See what you think!

Federal Budget 101

The U.S. Congress sets a federal budget every year in the trillions of dollars.  Few people know how much money that is so we created a breakdown of federal spending in simple terms.  Let’s put the 2011 federal budget into perspective:

  •  U.S. Income: $2,170,000,000,000
  •  Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
  •  New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
  •  National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
  •  Recent budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000 (about 1 percent of the budget)

 It helps to think about these numbers in terms that we can relate to.  Let’s remove eight zeros from these numbers and pretend this is the household budget for the fictitious Jones family .

  • Total annual income for the Jones family: $21,700 
  • Amount of money the Jones family spent: $38,200  
  • Amount of new debt added to the credit card: $16,500  
  • Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
  • Amount cut from the budget: $385

So, in effect last month Congress, or in this example the Jones family, sat down at the kitchen table and agreed to cut $385  from its annual budget.  What family would cut $385 of spending in order to solve $16,500 in deficit spending? 

Now after years of this, the Jones family has $142,710 of debt on its credit card (which is the equivalent of the national debt). 

You would think the Jones family would recognize and address this situation, but it does not. Neither does Congress. 

The root of the debt problem is that the voters typically do not send people to Congress to save money. They are sent there to bring home the bacon to their own home state.  To effect budget change, we need to change the job description and give Congress new marching orders. 

It is  awfully hard (but not impossible) to reverse course and tell the government to stop borrowing money from our children and spending it now. 

In effect, what we have is a reverse mortgage on the country.  The problem is that the voters have become addicted to the money. 

Moreover, the American voters are still in the denial stage, and do not want to face the possibility of going into rehab. 

Attributed to: DAVID THOMAS, Chief Executive Officer — Equitas Capital Advisors LLC

Should I be on Facebook?

I’m not a big fan of forwarded emails… I can probably count on one hand the number of emails I forward each month. And even then, I don’t just send it to everybody in my address book. What follows is one I recently received that seemed to have some merit, particularly for the “over 50” crowd.

Unfortunately, the Internet is a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, privacy ceases to exist if your’re not careful. Oddly, the identity of original authors also seems to disappear. So we’ll attribute this to “anonymous” which is unfortunate because I bet a lot of people will adopt his or her answer to the “paper or plastic” question. Anonymous writes,

When I bought my Blackberry, I thought about the thirty-year business I ran with 1800 employees, all without a cell phone that plays music, takes videos, pictures, and communicates with Facebook and Twitter. I signed up under duress for Twitter and Facebook, so my seven kids, their spouses, 13 grandkids and 2 great-grand kids could communicate with me in the modern way. I figured I could handle something as simple as Twitter with only 140 characters of space.

That was before one of my grandkids hooked me up for Tweeter, Tweetree, Twhirl, Twitterfon, Tweetie and Twittererific Tweetdeck, Twitpix and something that sends every message to my cell phone and every other program within the texting world.

My phone was beeping every three minutes with the details of everything except the bowel movements of the entire next generation. I am not ready to live like this. I keep my cell phone in the garage in my golf bag.

The kids bought me a GPS for my last birthday because they say I get lost every now and then going over to the grocery store or library. I keep that in a box under my tool bench with the Blue Tooth [it’s red] phone I am supposed to use when I drive. I wore it once and was standing in line at Barnes and Noble talking to my wife and everyone in the nearest 50 yards was glaring at me. I had to take my hearing aid out to use it, and I got a little loud.

The GPS looked pretty smart on my dash board, but the lady inside that gadget was the most annoying, rudest person I had run into in a long time. Every 10 minutes, she would sarcastically say, “Re-calc-u-lating.” You would think that she could be nicer. It was like she could barely tolerate me. She would let go with a deep sigh and then tell me to make a U-turn at the next light. Then if I made a right turn instead… Well, it was not a good relationship.

When I get really lost now, I call my wife and Continue reading Should I be on Facebook?

The Ecology of Your Mind

While this may not be about writing, it might be a brain leak. I recently found myself intrigued by some of the thoughts of Sir Ken Robertson. In order:

Here is a link to a 20 minute video of a Presentation on School Creativity. Some of the jokes are bit worn, but he speaks in an entertaining style and will make you think. I’m hesitant to offer a synopsis, but you’ll be challenged by his point that our current model of public education was designed to meet the needs of an increasing industrialized nation. You have to wonder: does that model still fit?

Two years later he offers some thoughts on valuing creativity. Here we follow a young girl who went from being diagnosed with a learning disability that hadn’t been invented yet to a highly successful dancer and owner of her own company.  How do we encourage things like this to happen? “I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity.”

Just last year, Robertson encourages us to bring on the revolution. A follow up to the 2006 presentation on school creativity, this will definitely get your blood pumping. If you’re interested in improving education, don’t miss this one!

I do love the concept of “human ecology” and will likely be writing about it some more… the way we use the term “ecology” these days is actually the third definition. In a larger and perhaps grander sense, we are talking about the relationships between humans and their environments. School (education) is as much an environment as it is a process. Those of us who teach need to understand that.

Lesson on the Mountain

        As I stopped to catch my breath, I found myself contemplating whether or not I was really having fun yet. It started out simply enough. A little walk in the woods while visiting my hometown. I was doing fine, ambling along the abandoned road until I saw a new sign. It marked a new trail and promised a number of wonderful vistas for those who hiked a mile up the mountain.

        I was feeling spontaneous and adventuresome. I had some time to kill. I chuckled a bit as I considered whether or not to “do” the trail. Mountain climbers are often quoted as explaining they climbed a mountain because it was there. I was alone. To whom did I need to explain my decision? I could, after all, just do it simply because I wanted to.

        Naturally, the box containing the “trail guide and map” was empty. I must have been feeling philosophical, too because I actually considered that something of a blessing. I’d have to discover things on my own rather than follow the numbers. Why do we so often need to have things ordered and mapped out? Why do we look at the things someone else has decided we should see?

        My first “breath catching” stop came a lot sooner than I’d hoped. As I pushed on, thoughts seemed to be rolling down the mountain, threatening to over take me. “No one knows where I am… This would not be a great place to have a heart attack… Continue reading Lesson on the Mountain

My Hero!

I’m very selective when it comes to identifying mentors and role models. I can only think of a handful of people who I’d give that label. One guy who gets a lot of credit for whatever writing skills I might have is my high school English Teacher, Tony Russo. Tony not only taught me to write, he taught me to think. I’ve occasionally speculated that he might have regretted doing so during some class discussions and debates on topics ranging from Hamlet to academic freedom. Fortunately here we are some 45 years later and he and I are still in contact.

One of the running amusements we share is that after all these years I still have trouble keeping analogies, metaphors, and similies straight. So it perhaps will come as no surprise that when I recently reported being as “busy as a one-armed paper-hanger with diarrehea,” I also confessed that I wasn’t sure which it was. Here is Tony’s response:

Here’s the thing, you have created an analogy to describe your current situation, i.e. you are currently as busy as, but you are not actually, a one-armed paperhanger with diarrhea. On the other hand, metaphorically speaking, you have replaced yourself with the one-armed paperhanger with diarrhea, thus creating a metaphor. I’ll bet you had no idea that you were so agile with turning a phrase. My advice, don’t sweat the small stuff. 99 and 44/100ths% of your readers will never know the difference anyway, and even if they do, they really don’t give a shit, no pun intended, but I must admit that if one were intended, it wouldn’t be all that bad.

I would observe that I am not the only one who is agile with turning a phrase… and I’m a bit relieved that I apparently no longer need to worry about whether I’m using a metaphor, analogy, or simile.

But I’ll bet I do.

Walter Boomsma (“Mr. Boomsma”) writes on a wide array of topics including personal development, teaching and learning. Course information is also available here!