What to do when there is not enough money

Bill Ellis

Bill EllisBy Bill Ellis

HOW do local, county and state governments deal with rising debt? What does a business or family do when the outgo exceeds the income?

Most people make a determined effort to pay their bills on time. If they buy anything on credit, they do so only if they have sufficient assets to cover their debt level. A good credit rating is to be valued and protected.

To spend more than you can pay for is not the sign of a responsible person. Prudent people act wisely, cautiously, thoughtfully and carefully. So should governments and organizations of any kind. Unpaid debt can destroy all a person, organization, state or nation has been able to accumulate and use productively.

Debt is often defined in terms of obligation, liability, deficit or just plain red ink. Publilius Syrus, a Roman poet and slave of the first century BC called it ‘The slavery of the free.’ Henry Wheeler Shaw, American humorist of 1818-85, put into the mouth of ‘Josh Billings’ these words concerning debt: “A trap which a man sets and baits himself, and then deliberately gets into.”

John Randolph, an early American statesman said it best with these words, “I have discovered the philosopher’s stone, that turns everything into gold: ‘Pay as you go.’ ”

‘Babe’ Blevins, one of the most beautiful, energetic and creative women I have ever known, spoke to a group of young women one day about “Turning nothing into something.” My young wife was in that audience. I was in graduate school. I recall how thrilled Kitty was when she returned home. ‘Babe’ showed these ladies, whose husbands were working on advanced degrees and had little income, how to transform a bedroom, living room or any room into something of beauty. Just use some ‘elbow grease’ and your imagination with some bailing wire, hammer and nails, a little paint, a few ruffles, some bright wallpaper and the transforming project becomes a thing of beauty and usefulness.

In the late 1930s, my Dad would go to the Union Hall for the coal miners and pick up ‘commodities’ – perhaps some coffee, sugar, lard, flour, dried beans and a pound of fat back that was nothing but pork fat without any lean meat. That helped a lot along with the things grown in summer gardens, greens picked in the springtime, eggs from the chickens and milk from the cow. Times were rough, but we survived.

In many areas, we are drowning in debt. When debts get too high, it is time to cut spending, suspend salary increases and unnecessary projects until the debts are paid.

The Church Council said to their pastor. “We have to cut the salary of the minister of music, youth and senior ministries.” The pastor, who was underpaid as it was, said, “No, you will not cut ‘their’ salaries, but you may cut ‘our’ salaries and I am asking you all to sacrificially increase your giving to keep us afloat and serving.” That pastor was right. Soon the church was prospering again in unimagined ways. When everybody gets on board, that can change a church, the smallest community and every government agency including The White House.

When in deep debt it might be best to cease spending on credit, cut expenses and move toward getting out of debt. How can you ever spend your way out of debt?

A brilliant thinker whose name was Paul said, “Owe no one anything except to love one another. . .” (Romans 13:8). He wrote sound advice to young Timothy: “But if any provide not for his own, and especially those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). Think about it. ANS

Bill Ellis is a syndicated columnist, and convention and conference speaker on every continent. He is the writer of more than 2,000 newspaper and magazine columns, articles and contributions to books.

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