Some of us who have managed projects know a little bit about budgets. Simply put, a budget is a bucket of money set up to pay for all of the line items in a project – or a series of projects.
Typically, the budget is set based on little things like what the client (internal or external) is looking to accomplish, what the client is able to spend, and ROI: (Return On Investment) Do the project’s benefits outweigh its cost, etc.
If you’re thinking “wow, that sounds like it takes a lot of planning and strategery,” you’re right. It does. The one thing you want to ensure as a project manager is that the goals, tactics and budget are aligned before a project starts: If the project is going to cost more than the budget allows, something is going to have to be cut from the project. Simple, basic stuff. If you don’t do this, you might run out of money before the project ends, which isn’t good. Your options then are a) ask the client for more money, b) close the project before having delivered it 100%, or c) eat the added cost. None of these options are good.
It’s with this simple methodology that I look at our federal budget deficit. Is it more complex than a marketing campaign? Of course it is. Infinitely so. But the principle is the same: Figure out how much funding you need to operate your series of projects (social security, national defense, infrastructure, research, wars, etc.), make the necessary adjustments, and go forward with what you can afford.
… Except… that isn’t how everyone understands the fundamentals of running a business/country. The latest Budget Deficit figures look pretty impressive. From CNN.com:
The White House on Monday predicted a record deficit of $490 billion for the 2009 budget year, a senior government official told CNN.
The deficit would amount to roughly 3.5 percent of the nation’s $14 trillion economy.
The official pointed to a faltering economy and the bipartisan $170 billion stimulus package that passed earlier this year for the record deficit.
The fiscal year begins October 1, 2008.
The federal deficit is the difference between what the government spends and what it takes in from taxes and other revenue sources. The government must borrow money to make up the difference.
President Bush inherited a budget surplus of $128 billion when he took office in 2001 but has since posted a budget deficit every year.
Maybe I am reading this wrong, but if the FY’09 $490 BILLION deficit is indeed for the 2009 budget year, we’re talking about overspending $1,342,465,700 per day for 365 days in a row.
Wait… Let me get this straight. The US government is overspending (all up) at a rate of 1.3 BILLION dollars per day?
Tell me I’m not understanding this correctly. Please. Someone tell that figure needs to somehow be stretched out over the last 8 years or something… Pretty please? Tell me there is no way that the United States of America’s operating budget is so poorly managed that it bleeding $1.3B per day. Tell me I am wrong about this. Tell me there is a plan to fix this. One that doesn’t involve a) just printing more money, or b) borrowing from foreign banks.
Maybe this kind of topic changes the conversation when it comes to what types of questions really need to be on people’s minds (and lips) when political candidates (from Presidential elections down to your municipal seats) run for office. Maybe the conversation should shift from soft broad-sweeping opinions about religion and security to cold hard facts and specific plans to fix what is broken. And by the way, this isn’t an indictment of either political party. Republicans and democrats together need to fix this – which is to say this isn’t just about this candidate or that one, but about us, American taxpayers and voters, who perhaps should refocus our attention when it comes to our definition of political leadership, and what our silver-haired years will be like, and the future our children will inherit.
Maybe there’s a branding lesson in there somewhere, both for world powers and the political candidates who aspire to help run them.