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Plus they have all those tanks.
September 12, 2013 8:47 AM   Subscribe


 
I'd invade my neighbor's yard to use his grill, even though I already had one. I need grills wherever I might want to go, in case (all of a sudden) I want to cook some brats.
posted by jquinby at 8:49 AM on September 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


When did the Heritage Foundation hire a satirist?
posted by boo_radley at 8:49 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


...uh, it's a good thing the average family isn't responsible for a country?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:50 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


But the federal government *isn't* a household. The typical family doesn't issue its own currency, borrow at rock bottom interest rates, or potentially generate additional revenue by over spending and generating demand. This comparison is just stupid.
posted by lucasks at 8:51 AM on September 12, 2013 [39 favorites]


But where is the average american family sourcing this fleet of tanks, guns, and drones for the bargain price of $12,800?

asking for a friend
posted by elizardbits at 8:52 AM on September 12, 2013 [26 favorites]


But the federal government *isn't* a household. The typical family doesn't issue its own currency, borrow at rock bottom interest rates, or potentially generate additional revenue by over spending and generating demand. This comparison is just stupid.

Typically when something is linked on the front page, it's a good idea to read it before commenting.
posted by codacorolla at 8:52 AM on September 12, 2013 [50 favorites]


But where is the average american family sourcing this fleet of tanks, guns, and drones for the bargain price of $12,800?

Wal-Mart
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:53 AM on September 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Typically when something is linked on the front page, it's a good idea to read it before commenting.

I assume lucasks is commenting on the Heritage foundation's stupid graphic, which the linked piece is, similarly, criticizing.
posted by yoink at 8:54 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Typically when something is linked on the front page, it's a good idea to read it before commenting.

I read the article and agree with lucasks.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:55 AM on September 12, 2013


What if I did the federal budget using peachtree? Seriously Obama, I'm rarely late with payments, put me in the CBO or something and I'll whip them into shape.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:55 AM on September 12, 2013


This is a fun lesson on figuring out who RTFA
posted by The Whelk at 8:56 AM on September 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


lucasks: This comparison is just stupid.

...That's the point of the article FFS.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:58 AM on September 12, 2013 [18 favorites]


But Mr. Swift, there are better solutions to the Irish famine!
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:59 AM on September 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


This is a fun lesson on figuring out who RTFA

Unlike every other FPP?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:59 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those lessons aren't fun.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:00 AM on September 12, 2013


The U.S. federal government really does resemble your typical money-printing family that owns lots of tanks, operates a giant insurance conglomerate, can borrow money at extremely low rates, and is assumed to be immortal.


It's like they've met my next-door neighbors or something.
posted by murphy slaw at 9:01 AM on September 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Party foul on my part. I never post without reading but the graphic pissed me off so much I couldn't get past it.
posted by lucasks at 9:01 AM on September 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


But the federal government *isn't* a household. The typical family doesn't issue its own currency, borrow at rock bottom interest rates, or potentially generate additional revenue by over spending and generating demand. This comparison is just stupid.

Indeed.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:01 AM on September 12, 2013


What the article pointed out is really the kicker, US debt is being held in a way that in no way resembles the debt represented by a credit card. The total amount that the people, governments, various kinds of funds who lend us their money get back from us is worth less than the money they lent to us in the first place - even after interest because of inflation. We have to worlds economy on its knees in front of us begging to throw its money at us because, unlike credit card borrowers, they know that we can pay them back. We dictate that interest because we can, knowing that people with money will come anyway. This is a situation that is INCREDIBLY FUCKING IDEAL for us to borrow money and invest in things that we know will pay us back as a society hundreds of fold; things like the good roads, good public health infrastructure, good education, and public safety net that both make our lives better and actually attract jobs.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:02 AM on September 12, 2013 [21 favorites]


But where is the average american family sourcing this fleet of tanks, guns, and drones for the bargain price of $12,800?

If you buy a bunch of those emergency supply kits at Costco I think they throw the fleet in for free.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:02 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, the family's accountant is completely incompetent and uses a screwy bookkeeping system that makes little sense to anyone else. For example, their entire mortgage counts as debt, but the current value of their house does not count as an asset. So it's virtually impossible to know what the actual financial status of the family is. Thanks, accountant.
posted by miyabo at 9:02 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've honestly never understood why I should care about the national debt, especially as a US citizen. It's even more maddening since at this point our budget deficit is rocketing down faster than it has in generations, but almost no one's bothering to talk about it because, again, this stuff doesn't actually have a great deal of meaning for most people's daily lives.
posted by Copronymus at 9:04 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


When you put it this way, it means the Chens down the street, and any other 'outsiders' we owe money to, have a vested interest in making sure we are immortal? Then why the hell are we paying for these tanks and drones ourselves? At the very least they could let us mooch off of their internet connection!
posted by antonymous at 9:07 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"This is a fun lesson on figuring out who RTFA"
 The Whelk


What does finding out who really tastes fuckin' awesome have to do with this article? Unless that's part of the food budget...
posted by not_on_display at 9:07 AM on September 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


And what if my left sock was made of Jell-O?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:10 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a situation that is INCREDIBLY FUCKING IDEAL for us to borrow money and invest in things that we know will pay us back as a society hundreds of fold; things like the good roads, good public health infrastructure, good education, and public safety net that both make our lives better and actually attract jobs.

Yet our leaders of both parties insist that food stamps (FUCKING FOOD STAMPS, much less actual investments in infrastructure, research or social investment, or god forbid healthcare which is literally the Devil's work) are too expensive and much be slashed on the alter of deficit reduction even more tax breaks for the richest people who have ever walked the Earth.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:11 AM on September 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


This is a bullshit analogy. There's no accounting for Dad's stripper fund, nor mom's "special water" and pool boy allowance.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:13 AM on September 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


The thing that bothers me most about the heritage graphic, which I'm surprised Plumer didn't bring up, is that they seem to be figuring US debt to be about 600% of GDP. They're using one of those dishonest calculations of debt that includes "unfunded liabilities", stuff that the government will owe in the future and fund with future tax revenues. In other words, it's counting the electric bills for the next few decades that the family hasn't paid yet as existing debt.
posted by mellow seas at 9:14 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


But where is the average american family sourcing this fleet of tanks, guns, and drones for the bargain price of $12,800?

Given some of my friends FB feeds, they are already spending this much on AR15s and ammo.

Suckers.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:17 AM on September 12, 2013


Also, every holiday dinner would turn into yet another droning jeremiad from Grandpa about how he went to the moon, and all young Billy wants to do is stuff his head in his ipad and tweet dirty pictures and so the family's obviously going to hell in a handbasket.
posted by Naberius at 9:19 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Generally speaking, the only legitimate reasons for caring about the national debt are (A) interest rates and (B) inflation. If your government is borrowing to the point where investors wonder about its ability to repay and start demanding higher rates of return on its bond purchases, then that can lead to a situation where private investment is "crowded out": companies can't borrow a favorable rates, which inhibits long-term economic growth. Alternatively, if governmental purchases are not offset by higher taxes or tighter monetary policy, inflation can creep up, and, again, that could hurt long-term growth.

The US isn't facing either of those situations. Rates are rock-bottom, negative even in some cases, and inflation hasn't been greater than 2% for a while now. The government should be borrowing and spending more, not less, and we could probably use a dose of higher inflation too to spur companies to put the cash they've been hoarding to use. Unfortunately, our political class, from the President on down, is in the grip of a bad metaphor, and the result is hardship for millions of people for many years to come.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:19 AM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Anyway, it’s a good analogy. The U.S. federal government really does resemble your typical money-printing family that owns lots of tanks, operates a giant insurance conglomerate, can borrow money at extremely low rates, and is assumed to be immortal.
Excellent article. The Government is not a business or a family. So we don't need to stop taxing the rich, thank you.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:19 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


If people at the Heritage Foundation really believe this analogy, no wonder they are so afraid of the government. The hypothetical Smiths sound terrifying.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:25 AM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is a situation that is INCREDIBLY FUCKING IDEAL for us to borrow money and invest in things that we know will pay us back as a society hundreds of fold; things like the good roads, good public health infrastructure, good education, and public safety net that both make our lives better and actually attract jobs.

Exactly. Unfortunately, it's not going to happen because the general population continues to believe the whole "government is like a household" thing at the same time as thinking of spending and debt as some sort of a morality issue. Which makes it even harder to put this meme to rest. So we're going to let this perfect opportunity that will benefit this nation in so many ways just pass us by.
posted by triggerfinger at 9:29 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Smiths' giant family run insurance company has been chronically understaffed for going on 5 years, but they refuse to hire more workers to meet demand and acutally have stopped replacing the ones that retire.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:36 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


There goes the neighborhood.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:38 AM on September 12, 2013


Yet our leaders of both parties insist that food stamps (FUCKING FOOD STAMPS, much less actual investments in infrastructure, research or social investment, or god forbid healthcare which is literally the Devil's work) are too expensive...

Any time I hear someone bitch about food stamps, I hand them a twenty and tell them to shut the fuck up about it for a year, and if they'd like to do the same again next year, I'll give 'em another twenty.

I did that to a boss of mine (who coincidentally had a signed portrait of Glenn Beck on his office wall) once, which is probably why I'm not employed there any more.
posted by notsnot at 9:43 AM on September 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


The Smiths' giant family run insurance company has been chronically understaffed for going on 5 years, but they refuse to hire more workers to meet demand and acutally have stopped replacing the ones that retire.

And gramma and grampa will yell at anyone changing it while simultaneous trying to prevent the kids from having it at all.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Blasdelb: "This is a situation that is INCREDIBLY FUCKING IDEAL for us to borrow money and invest in things that we know will pay us back as a society hundreds of fold; things like the good roads, good public health infrastructure, good education, and public safety net that both make our lives better and actually attract jobs."

Sadly, with the pundit class confusing everyone with their idiotic comparisons between the federal budget and a personal budget, nobody gets that. Actually, the problem isn't that it's an idiotic comparison, it's that the comparison is anti-informative. After having this idea planted in your brain, you are demonstrably less informed about reality. It is worse than idiotic.

Sadly, this seems to be a recurring theme in our society lately. Everything has to be reduced to some folksy analogy and in that process loses so much of the nuance that the analogies are just plain wrong.
posted by wierdo at 10:04 AM on September 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


I would like to be your tank-owning neighbor. Tanks are cool. I would replace the big gun with a flamethrower, though. And I'd probably paint it light blue or something.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:10 AM on September 12, 2013


Another fun thing about the Smiths is that in addition to being immortals who can borrow for almost free, their actual income is pretty much up to them. Any time they want, they can go to "work" and say "Boss, I want you a 10\% raise," and their boss is just about physically incapable of saying no.

Of course, lately they've kept going to work and saying "Boss, I think I need a pay cut because that will mean I get more money because phase 3: profit." And the boss always says yes to that, too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:19 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tanks are cool. I would replace the big gun with a flamethrower, though.

Why not both?
posted by zombieflanders at 10:24 AM on September 12, 2013


Derail: Flamethrower tanks were hugely effective at scaring enemy troops. Evidence from the second world war suggested that you didn't want to be captured in one, though: the crews that were faced the wrath of their captors and were simply executed on the spot.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:48 AM on September 12, 2013


And you know the Smiths? They own a freaking country. That borrowing is not off of credit cards, it's a reverse mortgage.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:02 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Funny, the same people who push this metaphor to critisize government spending are also often the biggest advocates of people investing in their future by getting collage degrees. Which of course requires families to spend like their hypothetical government.
posted by srboisvert at 11:27 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


[citation needed]
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:30 AM on September 12, 2013


Actually, come to think of it, the Smiths spend nearly half their money — 43 percent — operating a massive insurance conglomerate whose main beneficiaries are family members.

This just shows how crazily the federal government spends money! That's money we could be spending on yoga lessons, clothes, or even just save up for a downpayment as a house. Speaking of which, how much does the federal government spend on rent? Maybe we could move to a cheaper neighborhood.

We should probably also think about whether we, as a nation, really need two cars.
posted by heathkit at 11:32 AM on September 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm just glad to have a handy link for all the times when my uncle doesn't believe me that the household analogy is really fucking dumb. But then, my uncle's kinda really fucking dumb.
posted by klangklangston at 12:22 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


* Bar graph not to scale.
posted by swift at 1:03 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was shockingly more insightful than I had expected. Props to the WaPo.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:11 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was great! I laughed out loud at the exploding Greek restaurants bit.
posted by cacofonie at 1:46 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


codacorolla: "But the federal government *isn't* a household. The typical family doesn't issue its own currency, borrow at rock bottom interest rates, or potentially generate additional revenue by over spending and generating demand. This comparison is just stupid.

Typically when something is linked on the front page, it's a good idea to read it before commenting."
Heh.

I mistakenly thought this was the original article, at first glance. And that article is every bit as stupid and banal as the jibe indicates.

I'll give lucasks and his/her 34 favoriters a pass on that error.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:49 PM on September 12, 2013


investing in their future by getting collage degrees

Yes, sadly fine arts majors rarely pay off.
posted by gingerest at 11:17 PM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


that they seem to be figuring US debt to be about 600% of GDP.

No, that would be gross debt as a percent of government income, not GDP.

I'd invade my neighbor's yard to use his grill

They got the analogy wrong. If the government was like a typical family, the country it governs would be the neighbourhood, not the family members. Perhaps you could claim eminent domain over your neighbour's grill.
posted by sfenders at 6:09 AM on September 13, 2013


Inapt analogy or not (and economic journalists do love their analogies), I'm still unconvinced that America has achieved the alchemists' dream of turning dross into gold with absolutely no downside. Economics is not my field, but whenever someone says "oh, that'll never happen here" or "this time it's different", it's time to edge towards the doors.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:59 AM on September 13, 2013


Ah, but the real bait-and-switch: they're talking about the family's pre-tax income; they should instead compare to the post-tax income. Figure $7400 in income tax (filing single), plus $3400 in FICA and your net is only $44k. Scale everything to that $44k income figure and the money "put on the credit card" is only $9600, which is less than your taxes. So, in this analogy all we need to do to fix the family's cash flow problem is eliminate income and social security taxes. QED.
posted by jepler at 4:33 PM on September 16, 2013


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