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I’ll Deal With It Later: Finances in America

Another piece of mail.  Throw it in the unopened stack.  This is the way I lived for a very long time.

Then, the late fees started.  Calls from the creditors came.  My credit rating plummeted.  The heat got shut off.  My phone was disconnected.  My mom had to settle a small credit card judgment that came in the mail.  I was in my mid twenties.  Why was this happening?

In my case, I was making money but didn’t want to deal with bills.  It seemed like such a chore to take out my checkbook, write a check, put a stamp on the envelope.  Who has time to buy stamps?  A budget?  What’s that?

It was so much more fun to go out and drink or buy clothes.  Charge please.  Those were my symptoms manifested in my own life.

But, what about individuals  all across America without  a diagnosis? Buy now. Pay later.  We are an instant gratification culture.  As consumers and as a government.  Our collective mental wellness is flawed.

I don’t have a sound understanding of the fiscal cliff debate.  I know three things we need: more tax revenue, smart budget cuts and responsible tax cuts for working families.  These ideas aren’t new at all. But, I know the government needs to think smart and act now.  This is the new (or not so new) normal though.  We have let debt spiral out of control because we can’t step back and make the hard decisions.  Compromise.  That is what we teach our kids. I’ll deal with it later…is unacceptable.

First issue: more revenue.  Our government needs a balanced budget and the only way to get there is by finding ways to generate revenue.  Taxing the wealthy at a higher rate so we can provide more government programs is an essential part of living in a democracy.  It is the morally right thing to do.

Second issue: smart budget cuts.  Here is where in the real problem lies.  The government won’t cut defense spending but it is willing to make large cuts to education, social service and health programs.   The argument for streamlining federal, state and local government bureaucracy is a good one but…

Want a less violent society? Education and early intervention.  Want a more productive workforce? Education and workplace wellness programs. Want innovation?  K-12 education and investments in higher education.  Want workers to show up to work at all? Afford health care.

Third issue: responsible tax cuts for working families.  Families struggling to make ends meet need the Child Tax credit and the Earned Income Tax credit.  It is one of the ways to bring families out of poverty and keep money going into our communities and local economies.

Our government needs to act but we as consumers need to act.  We can’t keep spending and spending.  If we want to raise taxes on the wealthy, those of us in the lower income brackets need to also start thinking about our responsibility to spend wisely.

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