Sep 112013

Politicians love to compare the federal government to a typical American family whenever the subject of spending cuts comes up. They argue that families must live within their means and so should the federal government. The argument is ridiculous and akin to comparing apples to airplanes, but it always generates a cheer at political rallies. Over at Wonkblog, Brad Plumer shows how odd a family might look if it spent like the federal government:

– The Smiths would spend 20 percent of their income, or $10,440 each year, on an arsenal of guns, tanks and drones to defend their house against threats or invade the occasional neighbor over lawn-pesticide disputes and access to the gas station.

– The Smiths would spend another third of their income financing retirement and health care for Grandma and Grandpa. Part of that would have been prepaid by money that Grandma and Grandpa socked away while they were working, but some of it would be paid for by the parents and kids who are chipping in.

– Actually, come to think of it, the Smiths spend nearly half their money — 43 percent — operating a massive insurance conglomerate whose main beneficiaries are family members.

The article probably won’t change any minds, but it illustrates how lazy and inaccurate some analogies can be.

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