By the time he returned home half-soused and slightly wobbly, his pockets empty, his heart filled with guilt, she had decided on a firm course of action.
Heretofore, she announced to him at the door, the paycheck goes into a trust fund to pay the bills. She told him that the president had decided to do the same thing with the federal treasury, and it seemed like a wonderful plan to get their financial affairs in order.But we can't afford to pay all the bills anyway, he said. Just like the government.
Yes, we could, she said, if you'd stop wasting money on your silly binges and we followed a true budget. Under the trust fund, the money goes for bills, and bills only. If you want to have a big night out with the guys, you have to give up something else.
Lunch. Dinner. Gasoline. Clothing for the kids. The mortgage payment.
I can't afford these now. I have to borrow to finance them every month. And if I didn't, I can tell you the economy would be nothing right now.
What do you mean? she said.
Just look around. Nobody's buying except those of us who can't afford it. Why, the stores downtown would be empty and a lot of people would be laid off. We're making this whole economy go. Hey, it's the American way.
That's a unique way of looking at it.
Why do you think the banks send you all those credit cards? They want you to go into debt as deeply as you can, so they can earn interest. They're in cahoots with the merchants and manufacturers. They're tickled when we're extravagant. They love it when we buy on impulse.
If I did the same thing you did, we'd be broke now. The president is right. We've got to tighten our belts, sacrifice and pay our bills, or we all are going bankrupt.
You and Clinton don't get it, do you? The reason I spend is to keep my job, and make sure my pals keep theirs, too. Hey, this is capitalism. What goes around, comes around. You got to buy the goods, even if you don't need them sometimes. And the more we buy, the more profitable our employers are. And they'll be less apt to hand out pink slips. You have to spend money to make money.
Sometimes you disgust me. You know we can't live beyond our means for very long. Clinton's putting all those higher taxes in a trust fund, so that he can
put our financial house in order.
And bring the house down. These higher taxes won't do what they say. They'll take a few hundred bucks out of our pockets that we won't be able to use to buy a new TV or have a nice night out on the town. And when millions like us do the same thing, a lot of people are going to get laid off. They'll file for unemployment checks, food stamps and welfare payments. And the deficit will go up, not down.
Your scare tactics are absurd, she said. If we can get our deficit down, there'll be more and cheaper money out there. The companies you are so worried about will find it easier to get credit to build new facilities. Ultimately, there'll be more jobs.
No way. You let them raise taxes and this government monster will get so big that nobody will be able to afford it. The only way to stop it is to cut taxes and give them less to operate with. And if our taxes are lower, we might be able to afford the things we want. And if they cut our taxes, we might have a greater incentive to save and spend money.
As usual, she said, you distort the situation. If Clinton should cut taxes as you suggest, the deficit will explode again, just like it did with Reagan. And the rich will get the lion's share of the income, just as they did in the '80s. And we will be just passing off the debt to our children. We tried supply-side economics once, and it didn't work. Clinton was right to call it trickle-down economics.
Hey, the government has never created a job out here in the private sector, although they like to claim that they can. If we can just get the government off our backs, this free-enterprise system will generate millions of new jobs and higher income for everybody. Why are you liberals afraid to give it a try?
I beg to disagree. If it weren't for the defense budget, there wouldn't be a California. If it weren't for the space budget, there wouldn't be a Houston. If it weren't for the agriculture budget, half of Iowa would live somewhere else. Florida would be on its knees without Social Security and Medicare. Government builds the roads and highways, and invests in new technology.
That's the trouble, he said. Once you adopt a philosophy that the economy can't run without federal help, then everybody looks for federal help. Everyone's got a hand out. Maybe we ought to let these things sort themselves out privately, and halt the distorting effects of federal spending.
Well, I haven't noticed any conservatives brave enough to cut spending in these sensitive areas. They like it just as much as the liberals. That's why we need a trust fund, to force some discipline.
Maybe we ought to call it a suspicious fund, not a trust fund, because that's what it is, he said. To Clinton, discipline means spending on the programs he likes and taxing us to pay for them.
That reminds me, she said. Here's five bucks. That's your allowance for tomorrow from our trust fund. And may I have your credit cards?