February 9, 2012

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if we were all a little better at pushing ourselves away from the dinner table? Our church has undertaken its own version of the biggest loser contest, with participants working to lose weight. I'm the competitive sort, so this format works for me, pushing me to drop a pound or two each week as the Sunday weigh-ins approach.

Eventually I'm going to have to exercise to continue to avoid the fine for gaining weight, but the first few weeks have seen me slim down ever so slightly simply by not over eating.

Sure my will power is challenged, but as the old saying goes, no pain, no gain. Ok, so it really doesn't cause me any aches or soreness not to eat that entire bag of chips, or to make one less trip to the buffet line, yet it still can be torturous to your mind that is trying everything to convince you to take one more bite.

Perhaps our federal government could be enticed to undertake its own biggest loser contest. I guess that's where my initial query was targeted, as in the midst of the presidential campaign circus I've been pondering which candidate has the best ability to push himself away from the table of government spending.

It's painfully obvious our current president, while physically thin, has an overeating complex when it comes to the federal budget. And instead of simply saying I'm stuffed and I cannot take another bite, he continues to gorge on costly spending increases without any concern for the ever-expanding waistline of our national debt.

Apparently President Obama has been watching too many of those infomercials that promise weight loss courtesy of some magic diet pill. They're not clinically proven to work and cost a bundle, but it sure would be nice to be able to eat whatever you want, never exercise and still lose weight.

How else can you justify increasing spending at a much greater rate than at which your revenue is growing?

I'm not fitness guru, but even I can tell you if you are going to eat more (spend more) you're going to gain weight (increase the national deficit).

Unfortunately in the past several years, our national waistline has grown from a bit of a pooch to a full-blown beer belly complete with extra large love handles.

As early as 2001, our nation was operating on a surplus budget, with more revenue than expenditures. That changed under George W. Bush, who saw deficit budgets of between $200 and $400 billion a year. By the time President Obama took over in 2009 and his $800 billion economic stimulus plan was approved, the deficit ballooned to more than $1 trillion a year, a number it has exceeded in each of his first three years in office, helping grow our national debt to more than $15 trillion, a level that according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, exceeded the nation's annual economic output in 2011.

That means it would take every penny of every single American's paycheck for the entire year to retire our nation's credit bill.

No amount of exercise is going to accomplish that goal overnight. There is no way we can get rid of that much deficit immediately.

Still, what's our current biggest loser's plan - too eat even more! I'll eat my way to being skinnier?

Our federal government spent nearly $1.3 TRILLION more than it brought in during fiscal year 2011 according to the US Treasury Department. For most of us, trillion isn't a number we toss around in the household budget discussions.

Alone that number is frightening. But, then stop and consider that our government only brought in an estimated $2.302 trillion in revenue, and that $1.299 trillion deficit leaps out like the monster in a horror movie. That's right, Big Brother borrowed 1/3 of the money it spent last year.

One theory is we can lower our deficit (or at least slow the rate at which it is expanding) by increasing government revenue in the form of a tax increase on the wealthy. The richest 1% of Americans pay around 38% off all federal income tax collected, they surely can afford some more.

We can eat more calories if we burn them through exercise. So theoretically we can eat more if we exercise more. The same can be said for our deficit waistline. We can spend more if we tax more. However, for our bodies, just like the federal economy, it's not an equal tradeoff. It will take me 30 minutes of high impact aerobics to burn off a candy bar. I dislike exercise more than I like eating candy bars. Perhaps I could eat the candy bar and have some world class athlete do my exercise for me. They're already working out 8.6 hours a day, what's another 30 minutes.

Now I'm not suggesting we elect Richard Simmons or Jilliam Michaels as president, but I sure hope whoever takes over the Oval Office in 2013 can join forces with Congress to put this nation's budget on Weight Watchers.

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