I have to tell you- I am tempted to go shopping to take advantage of the big sales retailers have this week, but I can't bring myself to do it. Frankly, I’d rather just spend time with my family.
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I'm not the only one sitting out on the incredible markdowns. Most of us are whittling away our debt. Five years after the borrowing bubble burst, the number of mortgage holders that are behind on their payments by two months or more is down 9%, while mortgage delinquencies are down too.
Now, the Federal Reserve says that Americans are spending 11% of their disposable income to pay down all forms of debt- the best performance since 1994. Pretty good, right?
Think about it - regular Americans, like you and me, are getting our financial houses in order. We’re more responsible and we're managing our money better.
However, the opposite is going on in Washington. On Monday, we hit the congressionally set debt ceiling. The nation has set a record of 4-year deficits at trillion dollar levels. The national debt is at an all-time high of $16 trillion, social security is running a deficit for the second year in a row, and now, Democrats are calling on Republicans to raise the debt ceiling again- despite the fact that they’ve raised it by $12 trillion less than a year ago.
Sounds like our leaders need to make a few financial resolutions this New Year. Here are my suggestions for Congress's promises:
-Don't spend more than you take in. Pretty basic stuff for most of us- and a novel idea for the folks in Washington. This year the Feds spent $29,691 per household and borrowed $3.20 of every $10 it spent. Acquiring some discipline will require cutting spending. In other words, you can't tax your way to fiscal solvency.
-Plan ahead. Yes, make a budget. The Senate has failed to do this the last four years. You can't get ahead without knowing where you're going.
-Stop lying. The federal budget is full of gimmicks that are just stinky lies- like the automatic spending increases that bump up spending with no congressional action. So, when members of Congress say they are cutting spending, what they really mean is they are cutting the growth of spending.
I could go on, but you get the point. These ideas are the ones that every high school student has heard from mom and dad. It's about time Congress was given a lesson!