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Old 9th October 2021, 01:58 PM   #1
Rincewind
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Debt Limit - what's the point?

I have noticed recently that there's been a bit of a 'discussion' about this, somewhere in DC.

As a non-American living here, I get puzzled by these antics.

If all that happens when the limit is approaching all you do is raise it, then what's the point of having it in the first place?
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Old 9th October 2021, 02:01 PM   #2
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It's just a political game at this point. We don't need the debt limit, the parties just like to use it to snipe at each other and for the right wing to hold the country hostage every year.

It needs to go.
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Old 9th October 2021, 02:07 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Boudicca90 View Post
It's just a political game at this point. We don't need the debt limit, the parties just like to use it to snipe at each other and for the right wing to hold the country hostage every year.

It needs to go.
That's kinda what I thought. Thank you!

I'm not yet a citizen, so there's nothing I could do!
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Old 10th October 2021, 03:58 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Rincewind View Post
If all that happens when the limit is approaching all you do is raise it, then what's the point of having it in the first place?


It lets them pretend that, any day now, they'll finally figure out the magic formula to balance taxes vs spending, so that additional debt is no longer needed.
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Old 10th October 2021, 04:28 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Horatius View Post
It lets them pretend that, any day now, they'll finally figure out the magic formula to balance taxes vs spending, so that additional debt is no longer needed.
you are missing the point: Congress already agreed to go into debt - why does it need to do so a second time for a purely technical reason?
The original budget should be enough of an authorization to issue bonds.

The debt ceiling serves no purpose but to make the US financials look more shaky than they are.
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Old 10th October 2021, 06:39 AM   #6
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Because calling it "Debt" scares stupid people who think government finances and personal finances are the same thing.

As noted so many times people must be intentionally just not getting it, this is not "debt" like your credit card bill.

And as noted so many times people must be intentionally just not getting it, the people setting the "You can spend this amount" and the "But you only have this much to spend" ARE THE EXACT SAME PEOPLE.
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Old 10th October 2021, 10:20 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
As noted so many times people must be intentionally just not getting it, this is not "debt" like your credit card bill.
Actually it is a lot more like credit card debt than you may want to admit.

The government never pays off its bonds. It sells new bonds to repay the old ones (and more besides). This is no different to an individual using one credit card to pay off another credit card. And just like the individual, if the government suddenly tries to live within its means then that will cause hardship.

The only difference between the individual and the government is that the Fed can mop up some of this debt by printing money but the debt keeps on increasing since the Fed can only print so much money.

It all goes swimmingly until the day it doesn't. It has ended badly for other countries before and the US isn't really a special case.
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Old 10th October 2021, 12:39 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
you are missing the point: Congress already agreed to go into debt - why does it need to do so a second time for a purely technical reason?
The original budget should be enough of an authorization to issue bonds.

The debt ceiling serves no purpose but to make the US financials look more shaky than they are.


Well, it's the American Way: create a system that doesn't actually do its job the way anyone with a brain would expect it to, then try to "fix" it by adding a stupid kludge on top of the system, rather than just admitting the original system was a flawed design.

See also: Electoral College vs. the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
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Old 10th October 2021, 12:42 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
The only difference between the individual and the government is that the Fed can mop up some of this debt by printing money but the debt keeps on increasing since the Fed can only print so much money.


One other key difference is that the government can unilaterally give itself a raise any time it wants by passing new tax laws.

If I could do that, I'd never be in debt.

The problem is that far too many politicians either stridently oppose new taxes, or lack the confidence to impose new taxes, so this rarely happens.
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Old 10th October 2021, 12:49 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
Actually it is a lot more like credit card debt than you may want to admit.

The government never pays off its bonds. It sells new bonds to repay the old ones (and more besides). This is no different to an individual using one credit card to pay off another credit card. And just like the individual, if the government suddenly tries to live within its means then that will cause hardship.

The only difference between the individual and the government is that the Fed can mop up some of this debt by printing money but the debt keeps on increasing since the Fed can only print so much money.

It all goes swimmingly until the day it doesn't. It has ended badly for other countries before and the US isn't really a special case.

But this annual 'ritual of the debt limit increase' kabuki theater does nothing meaningful. The same script must be followed; depart from it and calamity is far more likely to accrue.
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Old 10th October 2021, 01:01 PM   #11
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I can put together a balanced budget. It isn't hard
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Old 10th October 2021, 01:44 PM   #12
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I took out a personal loan way over my annual GDP to fix my leaking roof

my neighbor didn’t, he’s just letting it leak until he makes enough money to pay for it. wish I had that kind of restraint.
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Old 10th October 2021, 08:38 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Horatius View Post
One other key difference is that the government can unilaterally give itself a raise any time it wants by passing new tax laws.

If I could do that, I'd never be in debt.

The problem is that far too many politicians either stridently oppose new taxes, or lack the confidence to impose new taxes, so this rarely happens.
I think you answered your own objection. Increasing taxes is no easier than getting a better paying job.
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Old 10th October 2021, 08:39 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
I can put together a balanced budget. It isn't hard
That would depend on whether your livelihood depends on the government continuing to live beyond its means.
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Old 10th October 2021, 08:43 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
I can put together a balanced budget. It isn't hard
Your, or anyone else's personal finances are irrelevant to the discussion of State debt.
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Old 11th October 2021, 05:42 AM   #16
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If people insist (beyond all reason) to see it as a direct parallel to personal finance at least do it honestly.

Father: Wife I order you to buy 500 dollars worth of groceries. Here's 300 dollars to do it. Put the rest on the credit card.
Wife: But I only have a 100 dollar limit on the credit card. Do I have your permission to raise that limit to 200?
Father: 200 dollars! Are you mad woman? We can't go that far into debt! See children this is why I am here, to keep your mothers frivolous spending in check. Did you see that? She was about to take this family another 100 dollars into debt?
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Old 11th October 2021, 05:49 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Your, or anyone else's personal finances are irrelevant to the discussion of State debt.
I didn't mean my budget....I can fix the federal budget and balance it in about a day. it's easy.
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Old 11th October 2021, 05:51 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
I didn't mean my budget....I can fix the federal budget and balance it in about a day. it's easy.
Why do I already know it's just more "If we don't do anything and a lot of people suffer, we'll at least be true to some insane moral code I'm making up" from you again.
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Old 11th October 2021, 06:04 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
If people insist (beyond all reason) to see it as a direct parallel to personal finance at least do it honestly.

Father: Wife I order you to buy 500 dollars worth of groceries. Here's 300 dollars to do it. Put the rest on the credit card.
Wife: But I only have a 100 dollar limit on the credit card. Do I have your permission to raise that limit to 200?
Father: 200 dollars! Are you mad woman? We can't go that far into debt! See children this is why I am here, to keep your mothers frivolous spending in check. Did you see that? She was about to take this family another 100 dollars into debt?
Why do you think that you are being facetious here? That's actually an apt analogy.
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Old 11th October 2021, 06:11 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
Why do you think that you are being facetious here? That's actually an apt analogy.
I was going for an apt analogy, not a facetious one.

That's exactly what the debt ceiling is. The person in charge of dictating how much to spend AND the person who is in charge of dictating how much money there is to spend being the same person, setting the amount needed higher than the amount available, and when the person tasked with actually spending the money on a functional level goes "Okay this isn't enough" then the original person makes a big showy fit about the other side being "fiscally irresponsible."
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Old 11th October 2021, 07:55 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
If people insist (beyond all reason) to see it as a direct parallel to personal finance at least do it honestly.

Father: Wife I order you to buy 500 dollars worth of groceries. Here's 300 dollars to do it. Put the rest on the credit card.
Wife: But I only have a 100 dollar limit on the credit card. Do I have your permission to raise that limit to 200?
Father: 200 dollars! Are you mad woman? We can't go that far into debt! See children this is why I am here, to keep your mothers frivolous spending in check. Did you see that? She was about to take this family another 100 dollars into debt?
A bit more specifically:

Father: Wife, I order you to buy 500 dollars worth of groceries. Here's 300 dollars to do it. The grocery store will put the rest on a tab.

Wife: Ok. But we are going to have to pay the grocery store at the end of the month.

**End of month comes**
Wife: Alright, I have to pay the grocery store. I need $200.

Father: What? We don't have $200.

Wife: Ok, then we'll just have to put it on a credit card then. But our credit card limit is only $100. Can you raise it to $200 so we can pay the grocery store? If we don't give them their money, they will stop selling us food.

Father: WHAT?! How can you be so lax with your spending?! WE CAN'T AFFORD THAT DEBT! YOU need to be frugal. Good thing I'm around to control your spending.
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Old 11th October 2021, 09:04 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
I was going for an apt analogy, not a facetious one.

That's exactly what the debt ceiling is. The person in charge of dictating how much to spend AND the person who is in charge of dictating how much money there is to spend being the same person, setting the amount needed higher than the amount available, and when the person tasked with actually spending the money on a functional level goes "Okay this isn't enough" then the original person makes a big showy fit about the other side being "fiscally irresponsible."
I get that. It's absolutely bonkers that congress is allowed to play these damaging games.

It doesn't explain why you think that comparing government finances to household finances is normally "dishonest" (other than household don't usually play this "debt ceiling" game).
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Old 11th October 2021, 12:09 PM   #23
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Why is it Wife/Father in those skits? It reads weird . . . is it her father or her husband?

Anyway . . .

I don't see that much different than the "effective thinking" of a lot of fiscally irresponsible households.

I mean seriously, I realize the budgets are a lot bigger and the access to money is almost a non-issue but the fundamentals are not that different from each other. We make $X; we spend $Y. If $Y > $X we either have to cut back, get a raise (raise taxes) or borrow. It's not complicated.
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Old 11th October 2021, 12:18 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
Why is it Wife/Father in those skits? It reads weird . . . is it her father or her husband?
It's an attempt to reference a super conservative household where the husband has pretty much total control. Not uncommon for such families with kids to have the wife refer to the husband as "father". IIRC, I think Mike Pence's wife refers to him as that.
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Old 11th October 2021, 12:22 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
Why is it Wife/Father in those skits? It reads weird . . . is it her father or her husband?
Honestly I put it that way specficially to invoke that stupid patriarchtical "Head of the House" image of the father/husband figure where the wife and children are basically the same kind of underling.

Quote:
Anyway . . .

I don't see that much different than the "effective thinking" of a lot of fiscally irresponsible households.

I mean seriously, I realize the budgets are a lot bigger and the access to money is almost a non-issue but the fundamentals are not that different from each other. We make $X; we spend $Y. If $Y > $X we either have to cut back, get a raise (raise taxes) or borrow. It's not complicated.
Okay here's the difference. You're gonna die someday. You can't operate a budget on a concept of (near lets we get end of the universe/fall of civilization pedantic) always increasing values.

That's why a personal budget and a national budget are so different they really shouldn't have the same word use to describe them both.

But this is getting to far away from my point. My point was never that it was impossible to make any parallels, just that as a counter to that stupid, salt of the Earth, working class hero, 'If I ran my business this way' truism style arguments which DO NOT WORK.

If you want to sit here and compare them until you can come up with some valid parallels, knock yourself out. Kind of outside the scope of my point.
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Old 11th October 2021, 12:24 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by bonzombiekitty View Post
It's an attempt to reference a super conservative household where the husband has pretty much total control. Not uncommon for such families with kids to have the wife refer to the husband as "father". IIRC, I think Mike Pence's wife refers to him as that.
What they said.
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Old 11th October 2021, 12:38 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Okay here's the difference. You're gonna die someday. You can't operate a budget on a concept of (near lets we get end of the universe/fall of civilization pedantic) always increasing values.
Neither can a State. Not indefinitely.

Quote:
That's why a personal budget and a national budget are so different they really shouldn't have the same word use to describe them both.
There are some differences, no doubt. But there's no reason that a government budget couldn't be run without a deficit or closer to the typical household budget.

Quote:
But this is getting to far away from my point. My point was never that it was impossible to make any parallels, just that as a counter to that stupid, salt of the Earth, working class hero, 'If I ran my business this way' truism style arguments which DO NOT WORK.
You are never going to reach those "salt of the Earth, working class hero," types by insulting them. Why don't they work? Why couldn't you run a deficit free national budget? Maybe not in the first year, but over time with a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, we could get there. We were pretty much there 100 years ago.

I understand that national debt isn't as bad as some people make it out to be and I understand that "the national debt" is a political sword more than a Sword of Damocles. But I don't think there is anything inherently "stupid" in the idea that we could (or even should) strive to reduce the debt and get to more balanced budgets.
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Old 11th October 2021, 12:47 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
There are some differences, no doubt. But there's no reason that a government budget couldn't be run without a deficit or closer to the typical household budget.
COULD it? sure. Does it make sense to? Not really, no.

Deficit spending isn't inherently bad, and is arguably good (invest now for returns that exceed whatever interest you have on the bonds). Yeah, at some point it is unsustainable, but there's no clear answer to where that line is.
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Old 11th October 2021, 01:44 PM   #29
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A company that is doing well but refuses to take up debt would be seen as being shortsighted.
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Old 11th October 2021, 02:02 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
A company that is doing well but refuses to take up debt would be seen as being shortsighted.

Yes. I understand debt and its utility. I understand that a State can take on more debt than a private entity for a variety of reasons. Given the levels of consumer debt in the US, I doubt most people have much problem understanding this.

That’s not the issue. The issue is that I don’t see it as inherently stupid to have a philosophical position that the Nation should not have as much debt as we do or that we shouldn’t strive toward spending less than we make.

Maybe it’s misguided. But it makes intuitive sense to a lot of people and calling the stupid isn’t very productive. Your average person isn’t going to understand the subtleties.
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Old 12th October 2021, 06:42 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
That’s not the issue. The issue is that I don’t see it as inherently stupid to have a philosophical position that the Nation should not have as much debt as we do or that we shouldn’t strive toward spending less than we make.


The big problem is, that's not the discussion the GOP is willing to have.

I've long been an advocate for being fiscally responsible. I used to say "fiscally conservative", but it's been a long, long time since the conservatives in any country have been fiscally responsible.

So, yeah, let's have an actual conversation about how to limit the national debt (of almost any nation, at this point), but "Let's give rich people trillions of dollars of tax cuts" isn't really a part of that conversation. Alas, that's the only conversation the GOP is willing to have these days.

The US budget is massive, and will continue to be massive for many years to come, even if they start a program of gradually reducing spending (it has to be gradual, to avoid a complete economic collapse, most likely). That massive budget needs to be paid for. Taxes or debt are the only ways to do that, so choose one.

At this point, I almost don't care which they choose - but they've got to choose one, period.
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Old 13th October 2021, 06:12 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
I didn't mean my budget....I can fix the federal budget and balance it in about a day. it's easy.
If that is really the case, then go ahead and fix the federal budget.
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Old 13th October 2021, 06:30 AM   #33
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It's just pocket change, why is anyone worried about it, as soon as I get my check for 100, Trillion dollars I will pay it off and give everybody a Vacation.
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Old 13th October 2021, 07:43 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
If that is really the case, then go ahead and fix the federal budget.
Cut every line in the budget by the same percent until the outflow matches the revenue.

Boom. I'm going to an early lunch.
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Old 13th October 2021, 08:40 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Cut every line in the budget by the same percent until the outflow matches the revenue.
- Sometimes things cost what they cost and can't become cheaper just because you wish they were.
- when you spend less it reduces economic activity, which reduced tax revenue. There can even be cases where cutting spending increases the deficit.
- only about 15% of the US budget is discretionary, the remainder is mandated by preexisting law that in some cases dates back as far as the 1930's. The yearly deficit actually exceeds the amount debated in passing the yearly budget
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Old 13th October 2021, 08:48 AM   #36
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So your solution to balancing the budget is just "balance the budget."

Brilliant, nobody has ever thought of that.
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Old 13th October 2021, 08:54 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by lomiller View Post
- Sometimes things cost what they cost and can't become cheaper just because you wish they were.
- when you spend less it reduces economic activity, which reduced tax revenue. There can even be cases where cutting spending increases the deficit.
- only about 15% of the US budget is discretionary, the remainder is mandated by preexisting law that in some cases dates back as far as the 1930's. The yearly deficit actually exceeds the amount debated in passing the yearly budget
For the first two, I simply don't care. One just has to keep cutting if there is lower revenue. down to zero if necessary.

For your third, preexisting law can't limit future budgets. Older law can't restrict a future Congressional act. If Congress simply votes to pass a budget without regards to the non discretionary requirements, then there isn't anything that forces congress's hand.
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Old 13th October 2021, 09:36 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Cut every line in the budget by the same percent until the outflow matches the revenue.

Boom. I'm going to an early lunch.
In that case, then have a good lunch since it will likely to be the last good lunch that you will ever have if your extraordinarily devastating budget plan would actually be implemented.
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Old 13th October 2021, 09:37 AM   #39
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Yes but I'm sure the total economic collapse would teach us a lesson about not being ideologically pure to something totally unrelated and at the end of the day isn't that what really matters...
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Last edited by JoeMorgue; 13th October 2021 at 09:39 AM.
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Old 13th October 2021, 09:38 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Yes but I'm sure the total economic collapse would teach us a lesson about not being ideologically pure to something totally unrelated and at the end of the day isn't that what really matters...
?

What are you talking about? I wouldn't support that strategy either.
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