The White House yesterday announced a $427 billion deficit projection for the 2005 fiscal year ending September 30, but this is misleading. It does not include the Social Security surplus that we are also planning to spend, which makes the total $600 billion instead. (And now you’re talking real money.)

It’s easy for the eyes to glaze over trying to make sense of this until you think of it in personal terms.

Imagine your own household budget. You spend $1,000 a week. You earn $940 a week. And your daughter, who works after school, hands you $60 every week for safekeeping. (She’s saving up for college.)

Would you say your budget is balanced?

You take in $1,000 a week, spend $1,000 a week. Yet, clearly, you are running a $60-a-week deficit, filching $60 a week from your daughter’s college fund – about $3,000 a year. The day will come that your daughter presents you with the bill for Duke and expects you to pay it with all that money she earned mowing lawns and sitting babies.

In Uncle Sam’s case, it’s not $3,000 a year but $200 billion.

Add that to the admitted deficit and you get the real deficit – about $600 billion, approaching 6% of our Gross Domestic Product.

It used to be that Republicans, who for some time now have controlled the purse strings, called vigorously for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. It was not a good idea – it went too far – but the general notion of fiscal responsibility was a good one that the Democrats, beginning in 1993, came to embrace.

Now, the Republicans have totally abandoned the call for a Balanced Budget Amendment, shifting their focus to an Anti-Marriage Amendment instead. That’s quite a shift in Constitutional priorities!

In the 204 years from 1776 through 1980, our nation had accumulated not quite $1 trillion in national debt. In the 24 years since, we’ve added nearly $7 trillion, more than $5 trillion of it under Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Bush.

There’s a lot that Republicans can take credit for – preventing increases in the minimum wage, slashing taxes for the rich, opposing the earned income tax credit, opposing the Family and Medical Leave Act, calling for a global ban on the embryonic stem cell research (the same research Nancy Reagan and others call for), inviting industry lobbyists to draft our new laws.

But one thing they can’t claim is the high ground when it comes to managing the nation’s finances. And those who think these chickens will never come home to roost know even less about chickens than I do. Which is saying something.


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