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Christmas and ‘the cliff’

December 5, 2012
By Mike Myer , The Inter-Mountain

Actually, this isn't a bad time for Congress and President Barack Obama to be debating how to avoid "the fiscal cliff." For that matter, Christmas is a good time to be thinking about the federal budget in general.

That's because the private sector, the only other place Americans dump tons of our money, has to be at its best during the holidays.

Think about it: We give our money to private businesses this month to purchase both the usual necessities of life and all those Christmas gifts we hand out.

Store owners realize that to stay in business, they have to offer good merchandise and services at good prices. Otherwise, shoppers won't patronize them any more and they'll go out of business.

The many charities that ask for our donations so they can help the less fortunate during the holidays are in a similar situation. Charity officials know that unless they are viewed as effective conduits of assistance, people won't make contributions to them. Charities have to build track records of doing good and doing it as efficiently as possible.

Then there's the government at all levels - but especially federal, which has become more insulated against accountability.

Uncle Sam doesn't have to persuade you to spend your money with him, in exchange for services or goods you want. Instead, we are told how much we will pay for government activities determined by the government.

It's much as if, while you were Christmas shopping, a store owner grabbed your wallet, took out some cash, then shoved an item you didn't really want into your hands and told you to get lost.

Merry Christmas from the IRS, he might tell you on your way out the door.

Or consider charities. Washington spends hundreds of billions of dollars a year on programs that once were considered charity, not government services to which we're entitled. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are among such programs. Recipients pay only part of the cost, often a tiny fraction, of the benefits they get.

There's no red kettle involved in soliciting our contributions to Uncle Sam's charities. Matter of fact, we're not asked. We're told we will pay certain percentages of our paychecks for Social Security and Medicare, for example. And part of the taxes we pay will go to Medicaid.

Visualize the friendly guy at the red kettle holding a club, not a bell, and ordering you to make a donation instead of thanking you after you've done so voluntarily. That's the difference between how charities operate and how the government's entitlement system works.

And don't even think about demanding a certain level of efficiency before you "donate" to Uncle Sam Charities. You're going to "contribute" what you're told regardless of how much waste is involved in government services.

So yes, this is a good time to be discussing why our taxes go up and up while we keeping hearing about cutbacks in government services. Where on earth is all the money, both real and borrowed, going?

There's a fiscal cliff, all right - but I'm wondering if we actually went over it decades ago.

Myer can be reached at:



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