Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October is For . . . Budgets? 12 Guidelines to Help Congress Do a Better Job

October is for festivals.

October is for raking and jumping into piles of leaves.

October is for late harvest.

October is for Halloween and trick or treat.

October is for . . . budgets?

Yes, if you’re a citizen of the United States, October 1 is the first day of the next fiscal (financial) year – the day when the new budget goes into effect.

Except when it doesn’t.

Which it hasn’t since 1997.


It’s almost hilarious.


The fiscal year used to begin on July 1.

But back in the 1970's, Congress moved it to October 1, in order to give Congress more time to come up with a budget.  Wikipedia

Except Congress has not passed a budget since 1997.  The American Prospect

Seems that they needed a few more years rather than a few more months.

Seems that it’s easier not to plan than to plan.

Seems that we the people can agree what to do for a couple of months, but don’t stretch us to agreement for a whole year – that we cannot or will not do.

One of my children (we in the family all know which one) is the worst liar on the planet (a good thing).  When we play the game Balderdash (where you’re supposed to lie to come up with obscure  word definitions to trick your opponents into believing you know what you’re talking about), we can always tell this child’s definitions: they’re long – very long – with lots of words, trying to sound knowledgeable by using high-falutin’ language.

That’s how lies work.  Truth is simple (remember ‘simple’ and ‘easy’ are not the same thing at all).  Truth is straightforward.  It’s clear.  Lies obscure. . . deceive . . . and they take a lot of explaining. . . because at the core, lies just don’t make sense.

Thus do we have thousands of pages of words that are passed off as a ‘budget’ when they are no such thing.

And so, with suitable humility, do I offer a short list of rules (more guidelines, really) that might help Congress get past gridlock and actually have a budget every year as they’re required to do (except when they don’t):

1. Remember nothing is forever: if you will simply remember this obvious fact, maybe it’ll be easier for you to vote on a budget that contains provisions with which you disagree.  You can always vote to eliminate the program next time.  But so long as a program is a program, please stop voting not to fund it simply because you wish the vote had gone the other way.  Which leads to rule #2:

2. Live with it.  Things will not always go your way.  This is how things work when we work in groups.  And maybe, just maybe, ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is, is not as bad as you fear.

3. Resist the temptation to play hide and seek: this is not the playground, this world you inhabit.  Obscuring what you’re doing by calling it something else or using thousands of words you pray no one will ever read is dishonest.  We deserve better of you and so do you.

4. Act as if we matter: Even if we the people do not matter to you, act as if we do.  Who knows, maybe over time, we’ll actually come to matter to you – and that will be a good thing.

5. “They” love America as much as you do: if you believe, really believe, this, you’ll be surprised at how agreeable you can be with your political enemies.

6. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it can’t be done: yours is a hard job.  Anyone who says or thinks otherwise is foolish.  Pay them no mind.  That said, never forget that the job being hard is no excuse not to do the job.

7. No one did this to you: nobody made you be a Senator or Congressperson.  This was something you chose.  So please stop resenting the job you worked so hard to get and simply do the job.

8. Remember what your job is: your job is not to get re-elected.  Your job is not to poll all of us to see what we think.  It’s your job to do the heavy lifting of thinking and listening to others among your colleagues and being informed and making rational, thoughtful, and if you are so inclined, prayerful, decisions.  Stop pawning your job off on the American people, hiding behind our opinions as if they’re determinative of what you should do at any given moment.  We hired you to represent us, not reflect us.  We want you to be better than us, not mirror images of us.  And if you need further reminder, go back and reread the Constitution and remind yourselves that we are not a democracy: we’re a representative republic.

9. You are not indispensable.  Nobody is.  Thus you are not.  The Republic will continue without you.  A little humility goes a long way in doing a job, any job, and especially your job, well.

10. This too shall pass.  When the Civil Rights Act was passed in the 1960's, certain Senators predicted the end of the world.  It was the end of a world, but not the end of the world.  And that’s (according to many of us) as it should have been.

11. Compromise.  Said another way, Idealogues are ill-suited to representative republics.  If we the people those many years ago had wanted to always have things go a certain way, we would have kept to kings and queens.  Only when one person is in charge does everything always go the way that person wants.  When all of us are ‘in charge’, it’s messy and complicated and hard work and it requires compromise.  Compromise is not the nasty cost of doing business in the United States; it’s actually the bedrock of our governmental institutions, this idea that the other guy or gal may actually have something of benefit to offer to our common good and our common understanding of ourselves and that our best understandings, not our worst,  come out of the wrestling.

12. When you’re beaten, shake hands.  Every child on every sports field across America understands the ritual of shaking hands, declaring the contest at an end with an acknowledged victor.  When you lose, simply admit you lost and move on.  Don’t keep refighting the fight.  It’s exhausting of resources and wastes time.  You can keep protesting when you’re outside the decision-making circle.  But when you’re inside that circle, you actually serve the working of the institution at least as much as you serve your own particular agenda.  To lead, one cannot act as an outside agitator.  That’s actually the job of folks like me.

13.  Tell the truth.  It's just so much easier than the alternative.


  1. WELL SAID - BUT This is not reaching your congressmen - unless you send it to THEM!!!!

  2. I wish I'd said that!!

    And -- did you send it to your Congressmen??

    1. Marilyn, thanks and done and feel free to share. Beth

    2. Consider it done.. See my blog..You are always an inspiration.

  3. I feel like I just had a great lesson in school. Now, please mail this to Congress.

    1. Ginny, done and feel free to share anywhere. Beth