We are living in unprecedented economic times primarily due to the expansion of rapid communications. News that occurs across the world at this moment is measured and processed by all financial markets within minutes. Globally, financial changes happen so fast that it has become difficult to keep up with them. This environment of constant change creates a fast paced lifestyle that brings anxiety and unease to even the most stable of lives. Speaking as someone who likes peace and stability I seek comfort by taking the time to focus on those things that should not change much. Things like words. Words do matter and their definitions create a firm foundation in our lives. Though it has become increasingly more difficult to find this Oasis of Tranquility through words; today I chose to examine the concept of fiscal responsibility.Fiscal responsibility, what do these two words mean independently of one another.
The word, fiscal, was first used in 1563 to define the treasury. Since it origination the definition has broadened to mean all matters financial especially as it pertains to budgets, taxation, or public debt. This is definitely one word that we can agree, has not changed much through the centuries.
Now let’s ponder the word, responsibility. It is defined as the state of being the person who caused something to happen; a duty or task that you are required or expected to do; something that you should do because it is morally right, legally required, etc.; trustworthy and reliable. This word dates back to the year 1771. Once more, we can agree that there has been little change to the usage or meaning of this expression of speech.
Simply put, once both words are brought together, we have a phrase that describes someone who is expected, by duty, to act in a morally right, legally responsible, trustworthy manner as it pertains to the treasury in which they are entrusted. This would have been the understanding of these two words since at least 1771, without change.
With clarity the phrase, fiscal responsibility, would apply to anyone in control of a treasury. That would likely include the family’s head of household, the person or persons in control of the family’s income. They would be one to set the budget and manage the day to day expenditures allowing for the appropriate amounts to be allotted between what is needed for savings, spending, and sharing of the incoming wealth. When laid out in words on a page it might sound simple yet for many heads of households or public officials it’s not. Sometimes, the responsible party decides that it is perfectly reasonable to borrow more than their income can afford on the sole rational that they feel that they deserve an elegant new home, a luxurious car, or a grand vacation. They might mean well but the bottom “red” line is that they are living outside the boundaries of what their budget can accommodate. It is only a matter of time before they wind up losing it all. Through their poor judgments they have failed to be fiscally responsible.
This applies equally to our Country’s financial budget. Just this week our Country’s “heads of household” will sign a two year budget. This means that they decided how our money would be spent over the next two years. No different from every family budget, it is made up of line items assigned to the only three things you can do with money; save it, spend it, or share it. For those of us who wish to keep up with this sort of information on a national level, it is not surprising that the save bucket is completely empty once again; Zero being applied to the ever growing deficit. Our Nation’s budget is once more heavily tilting out of balance by the over indulgence of those line items found in the spend and share accounts. The leaders whom we gave the fiscal responsibility of balancing our budget have once more let us down.
Fiscal responsibility is an old and stable ideal; one that should mean something very important to those entrusted with it. As someone who has found themselves in a position of overseeing the funds of others, I have always sought out guidelines to follow so as to avoid ill-advised mistakes. Take this simple example of a family budget. If a family makes $100; $20 should be saved, $10 should be shared, and $70 should be available to spend, in that order. If you don’t spend the full $70 the balance can be distributed into one of the other categories. Of the 20% saved, 10% would be for long term needs with the other 10% for emergencies. This is an example of a very simple, fiscally responsible budget that every teenager should be taught.
For some strange reason we, the people of these United States, either do not understand or do not care that those whom we elect as the responsible parties of our Country’s treasury should be held accountable for these same simple financial principles. Just as the family, outlined above, cannot continue to spend outside their means; so too this Country, cannot continue to outspend at the pace we are going.
We are extremely blest in this Country and for these blessings to continue for the future generations we have to get our fiscal house back in order. No family could operate a household using the budget principles our elected representatives use to devise this Nation’s budget so why do we allow them to. I enjoy and believe I am morally responsible to financially help others but only to the extent of the ten percent that I budgeted to be shared. It is noble to want to help everyone without limit but to do so with abandonment of common sense would put my family at risk of becoming one of those in need. In the end, that would help no one and would go against the definition of being a responsible steward of my family’s funds.
Should those whom we place in positions of authority be held to same standards that we hold ourselves? I believe they should. I believe we need to seek trustworthy people of wisdom to act on our behalf, especially if they are responsible for the tax dollars that I freely give to my government. Words do matter and so do the actions of those who act on our behalf regardless if it is on a family or a national level.