Our Budget, Our Selves

Our Budget, Our Selves

Few processes are more revealing of our commitments, our priorities, and our core beliefs than budgeting. This is true for individuals, families, institutions, and nations. How we spend our resources is a much more meaningful measure of what we value than our public declarations on the matter.

This is particularly true in tough times when there are fewer resources to allocate.

I have a good friend who has decided to get rid of their family’s second car. Though she and her husband work 30 minutes in opposite directions they are finding a way to make this crazy commute work. Why? Because they live a town with seriously underperforming public schools and they are absolutely committed to providing their daughter with a first class education. For them, this means private school tuition. So everyone is bracing for obscenely early mornings and far more inconvenient work schedules. They never thought twice about this priority.

Facebook
Twitter
Email
Flipboard
Pocket

Few processes are more revealing of our commitments, our priorities, and our core beliefs than budgeting. This is true for individuals, families, institutions, and nations. How we spend our resources is a much more meaningful measure of what we value than our public declarations on the matter.

This is particularly true in tough times when there are fewer resources to allocate.

I have a good friend who has decided to get rid of their family’s second car. Though she and her husband work 30 minutes in opposite directions they are finding a way to make this crazy commute work. Why? Because they live a town with seriously underperforming public schools and they are absolutely committed to providing their daughter with a first class education. For them, this means private school tuition. So everyone is bracing for obscenely early mornings and far more inconvenient work schedules. They never thought twice about this priority.

I work at an elite, private university, but even we are feeling the crush of the economic downturn. This week I watched with pride as my president, Shirley Tilghman, explained that Princeton remains absolutely committed to providing some of the most generous financial aid packages in the country. There may be heftier workloads and fewer faculty resources, but President Tilghman will not allow financial pressures to alter her commitment to expanding opportunities in the ivy leagues beyond the wealthy elite. She has not wavered about this priority.

On Fridays my retired mother volunteers at our local crisis ministry. Every week she meets men and women who have lost jobs and homes. They are battling to find enough food to feed their families. Yet most of them talk to her about their deep commitments to family and community. They are pulling together and helping one another. Times are tough but they help their elderly neighbors get groceries home on the bus. They do not allow their poverty to duhmanize them.

Tonight President Obama presents his budget to the American people. The budget is more than a balance sheet. President Obama will ask us to evaluate our priorities in the face of economic crisis. He will question our resolve to improve education, offer equal opportunities, and provide for our neighbors despite the the terrifying deficits. He will ask us what we really believe.

Each of the stories I have told here could be eased with a collective national effort. All families should have quality public schools for their children. College should be more affordable for high achieving students. High quality, widely accessible public housing and elder care services can relieve burdens on the poorest Americans.

Budgets are choices. We can respond with fear and refuse to make long term investments in our country or we can choose to follow our highest ideals as Americans. President Obama will ask us what we believe.

How we respond will reveal who we truly are as a nation.

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read. It takes a dedicated team to publish timely, deeply researched pieces like this one. For over 150 years, The Nation has stood for truth, justice, and democracy. Today, in a time of media austerity, articles like the one you just read are vital ways to speak truth to power and cover issues that are often overlooked by the mainstream media.

This month, we are calling on those who value us to support our Spring Fundraising Campaign and make the work we do possible. The Nation is not beholden to advertisers or corporate owners—we answer only to you, our readers.

Can you help us reach our $20,000 goal this month? Donate today to ensure we can continue to publish journalism on the most important issues of the day, from climate change and abortion access to the Supreme Court and the peace movement. The Nation can help you make sense of this moment, and much more.

Thank you for being a supporter of independent journalism.

Ad Policy
x