"All right," said my mother, standing before the members of the U.S. Senate, "it's time for you to get your act together."
"That's right," said my father. "You fools haven't passed an annual budget in more than three years!"
"What is this thing you call a 'budget'?" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"For the love of God," said my mother. "A budget is a framework that sets priorities for spending based on the income or revenue one receives. In the case of the government, it allocates funds among different programs in a rational and organized manner."
"That is correct, dear," said my father. "The budget process brings discipline to spending. Since there is a finite amount of income, a budget forces an individual or organization to make tough decisions."
"Sounds like a lot of work," said Reid.
"It's a tremendous amount of work, but it must be done," said my mother. "It's because my husband and I established a disciplined budget every year that we managed to raise six children on a single income."
"It was our duty to our children to create and follow a budget," said my father. "It is the duty of the Senate to work with the House and the White House to do likewise."
"We don't need a budget," said Reid. "We keep passing short-term continuing resolutions, which are funding the government just fine."
"Horsefeathers!" said my mother. "By passing short-term budgeting resolutions, you are not addressing the deficit, which will be just shy of $1 trillion again this fiscal year. You are not addressing the need to reform taxes to eliminate red tape, broaden the base and increase revenue. You are not doing your jobs and you should be ashamed of yourselves for the uncertainty you are visiting on our shaky economy."
"How does this budgeting thing work?" said Reid, with a puzzled look on his face.
"First," said my father, "you look at how much money you are bringing in. Then you make sure the important items are covered. In our case, they included our mortgage, utility bills, food and savings for a rainy day. Regrettably, we hardly ever had money left over to pay for fun things, such as vacations, new cars and other niceties, so we cut those from our budget."
"You cut niceties! Why didn't you just create more money like our government does?"
"For the love of God," said my mother. "You numbskulls in Washington need to get your heads examined. You are spending this country into oblivion. You are running up debt at an unsustainable level. At some point, this country will no longer be able to print or borrow enough money and the whole thing will come crashing down - and it will be because you lack the discipline to produce a simple budget."
"But we can't prioritize spending and cut government programs!" said Reid. "People who like these programs voted for us to keep growing them. If we go through a budgeting process, members of the Senate will go on record showing which priorities they favor and which they don't. That's bad politics."
"Bad politics is what the country needs right now," said my father. "My wife and I have been disciplined about spending throughout our marriage, because we worried about our children's future. We managed our affairs sensibly and are happily retired, and our children do not have to worry about our future. But the Senate must produce a budget right now to save our country's future."
"Budget," said Reid. "What is this thing you call a 'budget'?"
-Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. His columns are distributed by Cagle Cartoons Inc. (Purcell@caglecartoons.com).