House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: "Every family in America has to balance their budget. Washington should, too."
Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J.: "You know, every family in America understands the necessity of a balanced budget."
Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.: "This is how every family tries to live in good times and in bad. Your government should do the same." ...NPR
Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Do you guys know anything about economics? You keep saying that! But there's nothing in the family budget that's similar to the nation's budget! Have you even thought about it? What's your game here?
Well, we know what the game is. The idea is to "appeal" to the Great American Family to go along with a Republican con game: using budget threats to eliminate government programs they don't like while trying to sound like your kindly (albeit misinformed) dad.
Don't let them sucker you anymore. About the only thing the US budget and the American family's budget has in common is debt.
Joseph Minarik, research director at the Committee for Economic Development in Washington, D.C., was chief economist in President Clinton's budget office. "It's not clear that American families are as virtuous as some people would like to believe," he says.
And although congressional Republicans talk about balancing the budget as an obvious goal, Minarik says "balanced budgets are actually quite unusual."
"Since 1969, the United States has had a total of five balanced budgets. Four of them were the last years of the Clinton administration," he says.
So family budgets and the federal budget do have some things in common. ...NPR
But that's where the comparison ends. Really. Once you get any deeper than that (and NPR provides a very good summary of the average family budget), you wind up with the impression that Republicans either don't know anything about economics or don't want you do know anything about what they're up to.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin is a conservative economist -- one of those reliable talking heads you see in "fair and balanced" interviews right across the media spectrum. So if you're still doubtful about killing the parallel between the budgets of the federal government and the American family, worry no more.
"The truth is, the federal government doesn't have a single budget," says Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, who is now president of the American Action Forum.
Budgets are planning documents. He says in the best of circumstances, the House and Senate agree on one, and then the White House has its own. The president's budget isn't even out yet. And just like the Dennison budget — where the ski lift tickets trumped the numbers penciled in the folder — the federal budgets don't have the force of law.
So if the federal government were a family, "Mom, Dad and the kid each make a plan and off they go and do it," Holtz-Eakin says. "And at the end of the year, they sit down and say, 'Wow, that didn't work out so well. Let's try it again next year.' "
Which is likely what Congress and the president will do again a year from now. ...NPR
Meanwhile, Paul Krugman has been looking at the same Republican mythology's appearance in a new poll.
Some people are apparently shocked by a new poll suggesting, not just that voters want a balanced budget, but that they believe that balancing the budget would create jobs.
But this is nothing new. Early in the crisis, I pointed to polls from the 1930s:
Gallup Poll [December, 1935]
Do you think it necessary at this time to balance the budget and start reducing the national debt?
Gallup Poll [May, 1936]
Are the acts of the present Administration helping or hindering recovery?
Gallup Poll (AIPO) [November, 1936]
DO YOU THINK IT NECESSARY FOR THE NEW ADMINISTRATION TO BALANCE THE BUDGET? 65% YES 28 NO 7 NO ANSWER
The key point, however, is that when FDR tried to give voters what they thought they wanted, he plunged the economy back into recession, and paid a heavy political price.