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Budget battle: Is it too much to ask for spending priorities?

You have a budget and, with it, spending priorities. Some bills are more important than others. Unexpected expenses, such as urgent home and vehicle repairs or medical bills, force households to make difficult decisions.

People get into financial trouble quickly when they think they can have it all, even when their income can’t support it.

Just like our federal government.

Friday marks the end of another federal fiscal year with no budget in place. Congress was again squabbling over stop-gap funding, intended to cover Washington’s expenses for a few more months as it lurches on without a long-term plan to reduce budget deficits. Prior to an apparent Monday deal, lawmakers warned that government might close offices.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Congress had just finished earlier rounds of shutdown politics in July and April.

Late last week, the Democrat-controlled Senate blocked a GOP House bill to fund the government past Friday. The reason? House Republicans wanted $1.6 billion in spending cuts to preserve emergency aid for disaster victims. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., refused.

Considering federal spending is approaching $4 trillion per year — nearly double what Washington spent 15 years ago — $1.6 billion is a drop in the bucket. The dispute was the equivalent of a household making $40,000 per year in after-tax earnings struggling to identify a $16 spending reduction over the course of an entire year.

Think you could do without that one new DVD this year? Or cancel a single lunch at a restaurant? Of course you could.

Democrats in Congress said they couldn’t. They claimed offsetting cuts had never accompanied emergency aid.

Republicans, meanwhile, insisted that with the national debt streaking toward $15 trillion, Washington must prioritize its spending immediately — it must acknowledge some budget items are more important than others, and the least important must be eliminated. Difficult choices must be made now, not just left to a congressional “supercommittee” that must issue recommendations by Nov. 23 on how to reduce future spending increases by more than $1 trillion.

By all means, help Americans who have been wiped out by natural disaster, such as those in Joplin, Mo., devastated by a massive tornado. But cut wasteful, counterproductive spending such as agricultural and ethanol subsidies to pay for it.

This course, according to President Obama, would “fundamentally cripple America.” Sen. Reid said it would kill jobs. What utter nonsense.

It turned out FEMA has enough cash for a few more days of disaster relief, negating its need for so much more money. Congress was expected to end its standoff as a result.

Americans have almost no faith or confidence in Congress, a collective that has completely lost touch with how a typical family gets by month to month. In today’s brutal economy, it’s tough. Sacrifices are being made, some of them painful.

It’s time for Washington to take the same approach.

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