The Family Fund

Posted: 2011/08/04 in Metaphors, Politics
Tags: , , , ,

One of my friends posted a very interesting analogy in their status on Facebook—that if the US Government were a family, it would have an income of $58,000 a year, spend $75,000 a year, and have $325,000 debt. And it just made what it thought were really painful spending cuts of $3000, to $72,000 a year.

As usual, I thought, “It’s not that simple,” and wrote this little parable.


It’s not that simple.

Imagine that we’re the family, and that the government is like this family fund that we each put money into and the family spends out of, based on what gets decided at family meetings.

Some of it goes to maintain the house, but most of it goes to give poorer family members a helping hand, and the next biggest chunk goes into fighting other families in the neighborhood. Oh, and more and more of it goes to interest on loans.

Our family’s been aging, so more of us would otherwise be poor, so we’re paying more out of the family fund to help them. And we’ve really gotten into it with the neighbors, so that’s costing more too.

Our family’s been changing in other ways too.

Most of us are making about as much as we used to, but there’s one sibling who’s been really successful. He used to make about 10 times what the rest of us make, but now it’s more like 40 times. He’s always put about a quarter of what he makes into the family fund, and in family meetings we’ve agreed to reduce his percentage, the idea being that if he put less into the family fund he would have more to pay us. Some of us work for him, but fewer than used to. He’s increasingly hiring the neighbors because they will work for less.

The only thing that’s been keeping the family fund going is that our successful sibling has been willing to loan it money. So some of what we put in goes to pay our successful sibling interest. Lately we’ve started borrowing money from the neighbors, and paying them interest too.

We really don’t want to be heartless and cut off our poorer members from the family fund—they could be us someday. Plus, if we do that all at once, they’re just going to start hitting each of us up for money. Some of them might even turn violent!

And it’s hard to just walk away from those fights with the neighbors.

The last family meeting was kind of tense. We made what felt like pretty big cuts, even though we know it’s not nearly enough. Some family members accused others of accepting payments from the family fund when they really didn’t need them, and said they were just lazy and needed to get a job. Others got worked up about friends of the family who were living in the house but not paying into the fund. It seems that they’re here because other family members pay them a little bit to do the chores they don’t like. Somebody suggested that maybe the successful sibling would have to kick in a little more to get the family out of debt, or at least keep it from getting worse. But that was absolutely out of the question. I’ve never seen the family so divided.

And just between you and me, the future has me really scared. There are repairs the house needs, and we keep putting them off. And then there’s the furnace. It burns oil, and oil’s getting expensive. And I’ve heard that oil’s going to get even more expensive, and that there might not even be enough to run the furnace every day before long. One of our kind of nerdy siblings says there are these new furnaces that run on solar panels and windmills—imagine that! They cost a lot, though, and we’re just scraping by as it is. Some of the neighbors are putting them in though.

Finally, I know this is selfish, but I was also hoping that I could get some money from the family fund when I got old and can’t work any more, or if I got really ill. I’ve always paid in my share and been proud to. I’ve put a little money of my own by, but who knows if it will be enough. Things are getting so expensive!

I guess we’ve all been selfish and short-sighted, some of us more than others, but I don’t want to start hating on anybody. We’ve all been way better off than most of the neighbors. And, after all, we’re family, aren’t we?


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