My usual coffee place was inexplicably closed this morning.
I pulled up and the lights were unlit and the shutters were shuttered.
I drove around the little building several times, forlornly hoping that it would magically open up in an angelic orchestra of joyful coffee rainbows and bacon flavored happiness.
Now, I don’t have a lot of hard and fast rules, but not starting Monday without coffee is one of them.
And so, somewhat later, instead of cheerfully slurping happy rainbow juice as I barreled carefree down the highway, I found myself plodding through the cold rain to stand, sullen and angry, in line to buy coffee at another place. A place without a drive-up window (thus the sullen and angry part).
Apparently, a lot of folks found themselves in similar straights this morning because the place was crowded with the sullen and the angry.
Conversation ebbed and flowed around me and my brain mostly edited the babble from my awareness – except for the pair of self-proclaimed budget analysts directly in front of me. They were talking loudly about government, and more specifically just how much ours sucks huge giant hairy donkey balls (I’m paraphrasing here). They were, more or less, talking about the ongoing debt battle raging on Capitol Hill (if “raging” means “scampering about madly and biting people on the ass like a diseased weasel”).
It was fairly obvious that neither of these two polyester suitmonkeys had any clue whatsoever as to what they were talking about.
Logical fallacies are like fingernails on a blackboard to me – or for those of you too young to know what a blackboard is, logical fallacies are like the sound of Michelle Bachman’s shrill squawk screeching like a rusty hinge in your ear while you’re suffering a skull splitting migraine brought on by the world’s worst cheap Mexican tequila hangover.
“You know, this isn’t rocket engineering,” one said loudly, “when are those bastards in Washington going to understand that you can’t spend more than you make?”
The other one agreed, “If I ran my house the way these idiots are running the country, I’d be out on the street!”
The wild eyed guy in front of them, a drywall installer from the looks of it or maybe a mass murderer who had recently quick-limed a pit full of dismembered body parts, turned around and chimed in, “No shit. It’s common sense. They need to start listening to Weeda Pebble!”
And I thought, who the hell is this Pebble bitch? Is she the voice in your head that sounds like Grover Norquist’s accountant? It was early, I hadn’t yet had coffee. Sue me. Eventually I realized he actually said we the people, which is apparently how we’re now referring to ourselves. I didn’t get the memo, sorry.
Paper Jumpsuit went on to explain, “These rich elitist sons of bitches don’t have the basic common sense of any average Joe Sixpack!”
Other folks nodded their agreement, I heard a “yadamnedriiight” from somewhere up line, and one of the suitmonkeys actually applauded a little bit.
It was at that point where the true beauty of the drive-up coffee shack really became apparent.
But I digress.
So, what common sense wisdom have we learned today, Children? Other than a non-fat latte tastes like Satan’s ass sweat?
If we only ran the United States like Joe Sixpack runs his house, why, everything would be groovy.
Why yes, that sound you hear is me contemplating violent mayhem, the kind involving the knocking of heads together like a couple of empty coconuts.
See, national debt represents how much money the government owes – to itself, to its citizens, and to others. Like a household budget, the debt gets larger when the government spends more than it takes in.
Well, no, not really, it’s much more complicated than that, but for the sake of Joe Sixpack’s comic book understanding of how the government works we’ll stick with the basic description.
The ratio of US debt to Gross Domestic Product (i.e. the country’s basic measure of income) this year is about 58%, give or take, or about average for an industrialized First World nation. Our 58% is much better than Germany’s 78%, but not quite as good as India’s 55%. Generally speaking a higher percentage is bad, and a low percentage (say like China’s 17%) is good. But just looking at the percentages is an oversimplification and a country with a low percentage of debt to GDP can still have a crappy credit rating for a number of reasons – say like those oil rich South American countries where soccer is the national sport, right after armed revolution, drug wars, and overthrowing the local despot. A more stable country can carry a lot of debt and still have a AAA credit rating because the market knows they’re reliable. Anybody, Joe Sixpack included, who has applied for a car loan or a mortgage from the local credit union should understand the basic principle, appearance is just as important, if not more so, than the actual ability to pay.
Now here’s the thing: A 58% debt to GDP ratio isn’t great, but it’s a damned sight better than it would be if America was your average American homeowner.
The median income in the US is about $46K per year for single earner households, and about $67K for dual income households. The median price of the average home in America is about $200K. Note: in some places income and home prices are lower, some places they’re considerably higher, but the ratio of income to home price remains roughly the same as a function of the free market. Now, the average American homeowner doesn’t just have his or her mortgage as debt, typically the average household has two cars, one of which is likely to be an expensive SUV and neither of which is paid off, and then there’s the gas to drive them, and the insurance. Households need electricity and natural gas and water and sewage and garbage service. Then there’s communications, the average American spends a lot of money on cell phones and data plans and cable and landlines and internet. And you have to eat. And there’s the other stuff, kids and all the crap they need, and clothes, and pets, and haircuts, and medical expenses, and etc and etc and so on and so forth. Oh, and don’t forget about interest on all those credit cards.
What it adds up to is that Joe Sixpack has a dead horse of about $300K on average, if he’s lucky.
And if he bought a boat on credit or an RV or that big monster truck, or a swimming pool or any of those other things he just had to have, well, he could have a debt that is much, much higher.
What it works out to, on average, is this: Joe Sixpack has an income to debt ratio of about 650%.
That’s six hundred and fifty percent. On average.
If Joe is living in a dual income home, then, on average, he’s still looking at an income/debt ratio of right around 447% – except he probably bought a more expensive house, so his debt to income ratio is probably closer to the previous single income example.
Remember the national debt to income ratio is 58% and just for reference the nation with the worst income to debt ratio right now is Japan with 225%
If we ran the country the way Joe Sixpack runs his house, we’d be looking at a national debt that is anywhere from nine to thirteen times what it is now.
That’s a national debt of $115 to $170 trillion, give or take a few dollars, just in case you’re not good with the math.
Of course, during the housing bubble when the banks were handing out free money and Joe Sixpack got himself into that balloon payment interest only mortgage on that $800K McMansion in Temecula, with the matching Lincoln Navigators in the driveway and the boat and the ATVs and the jet skis and the other toys and he was blithely carrying somewhere in the neighborhood of a million dollars of the American dream on his back, well, then his debt to income ratio was nigh on batshit insane.
But yeah, let’s run the country the way Joe runs his house.
Yeah, let’s do that.
What? Oh the smell, yeah, that’s sarcasm. Sorry about that stinker, I let one slip out there.
Joe Sixpack has all kinds of great ideas for running the country.
Maybe we could apply those ideas to Joe’s household, after all turnabout is fair play, right?
For example, the first thing old Joe Sixpack should do is take a vow to never raise his income level. Ever. $46K per year and not a penny more, swear to Jesus. No matter what.
He should start referring to his unemployed wife as a “lazy socialist parasite.” When the kids ask for allowances, Joe can explain how that kind of “redistribution of wealth” is anti-American.
Fifty-six percent of the household budget would be spent on guns.
Instead of cutting back on cable or cell phones or eating out six nights a week or those jet skis or, god forbid, buying a few less guns each month, Joe decides to cut his grandmother’s medical coverage.
At least one member of the family goes to bed hungry every night, while the rest are overweight and throw food away.
Joe’s daughter gets raped one night, and he explains how it’s her fault for looking like a tart, the resulting unwanted pregnancy is God’s will and besides motherhood will build character. Oh, by the way, get out, because Joe sure as hell isn’t paying for that baby. Oh and by the way, have fun with the cervical cancer since, in addition to the whole rape thing God wanted you to have, he was also apparently against the HPV vaccine. None of which has anything whatsoever to do with balancing the household’s budget, but Joe feels that arguing about it, along with condemning other members of the family to hell, is important.
Oops, sorry, there it is again. Logical fallacies give me gas. Go ahead and roll down your window.
Unfortunately for us, when it all gets to be too much for stubborn old Joe Sixpack, he can always declare bankruptcy and default on his debts.
And in that respect, well, we are running the country exactly like he would.