Here is the reason that the Democrats were unable to make the enormous federal budget deficits into a campaign issue last year: to the average American, the numbers are wholly incomprehensible. Who can really get their hands around exactly what a billion dollars is or what it can do? Who can readily fathom the difference between $1 billion and $500 billion or $1 trillion? Can the average person be expected to know how many additional free school lunches could be offered to low-income children with $1.3 billion instead of $1.2 billion? Or how many more loans could be made to cities for wastewater pollution reduction with $5.7 billion instead of $5.4 billion? I mean, hell, I spent a decade doing public finance for a living, and I can't really fathom the magnitude of those numbers.
So how do you make the deficit number easier to understand? Simple. Put it into context: beside total revenues. The $427 billion deficit projected by the White House for this year? A difficult concept on its own. But put that next to the $1.8 trillion in projected receipts (taxes, etc.) and it starts to get easier. That's a deficit equal to 24% of revenues.
Now boil it down to a more personal level. That's the same as if a person or family making $35,000 a year were borrowing another $8,000+ on their credit cards every year. Or a family making $100,000 were borrowing $24,000 every year. Every year. How long do you think your family would stay solvent? How long before you're eating beanie weenie and white bread every night and your phone's ringing off the hook with creditors on the line and you're losing your house and you can't afford to take your kid to the doctor and you realize you're never going to dig yourself out of this hole? But, of course, the President and the Congress don't have to eat beanie weenie . . . we do.
Despite what we might like to believe, Washington is loaded with brilliant minds. Can't somebody there find a way to explain to America what a problem this is?