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Spending cuts? You first - Tom Purcell

"I'm sick of wasteful government spending. It's time we throw the bums out!"

"You raise a fair point. A Congressional Budget Office brief says our growing debt could lead to a real fiscal crisis, if investors lose confidence in the federal government's ability to manage its budget."

"There was a time investors had confidence in our government's ability to manage the budget? I say we slash spending across the board!"

"Now, there's an idea. Why don't we start with entitlement spending and the granddaddy of them all: Social Security! Social Security is the grandest Ponzi scheme in world history. The scheme worked fine so long as millions of baby boomers were young and working and paying into the system."

"You can't cut Social Security. My parents need that money. I hope to retire soon and I want my cut, too."

"Which is precisely the problem. Reason magazine says that as baby boomers retire, millions will stop paying into the system and it will start paying billions out. Social Security will grow from $581 billion this year to $966 billion in only eight years!"

"I'll hand over my Social Security check when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers."

"How about Medicare then? It was projected to grow from $516 billion this year to $932 billion in 2018 -- until Democrats created an independent panel to cut Medicare spending as part of their health-care reform bill."

"But my elderly mother just had her hip replaced. If Medicare didn't cover the cost, she would have had to dip into my inheritance!"

"Not to worry, Democrats and Republicans alike have never been good at cutting spending. In fact, says The Hill, Senate Republicans unveiled legislation to kill the cost-cutting panel! Perhaps we can try to slash other popular government programs, such as your tax-free health insurance!"

"My health insurance?"

"Your employer spends $15,000 a year on your family's health-care policy. That's tantamount to $15,000 in income, yet you pay no income tax on the money."

"I don't?"

"Nope. I'll bet your federal income taxes average 30 percent of your gross income. If you had to pay 30 percent on that 15 grand, you'd owe $4,500 more in taxes. In a manner, you are receiving a nice government subsidy. Which brings us to your mortgage."

"What about my mortgage?"

"You and your wife were able to buy your dream home with a minimal down payment and a fabulous interest rate. That's because the Federal Housing Authority backed your loan. And you deduct your mortgage interest off your income taxes -- another subsidy you are receiving from your government."

"I don't know why you're getting so personal here. Our government is wasting our money. Look at all the pork-barrel spending!"

"I suppose you'd be happy to give up that new highway system that allows you easy access to the city? How about the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which protects your bank account in the event that your bank fails? What about the low-cost college loans and grants that will help you get your kids through school?"

"I'm talking about those earmarks the dirty bums in Congress slip into bills!"

"Fair enough, but such spending accounts for less than $20 billion a year -- a paltry sum compared to our nearly $4 trillion federal budget."

"What is your point?"

"More of us are on the government dole than we like to admit. If we want to get serious about getting our fiscal house in order, all of us have to pony up."

"Can we hold off until next year? Mom was thinking of having her knee replaced, and I don't want that coming out of my inheritance."

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.