February 2nd, 2010
11:15 AM ET

Dear President Obama #379: Time to pay the bills

Reporter's Note: President Barack Obama has rolled out his latest budget for the United States of America. It’s a whopper, as such things usually are. So no doubt he appreciates that my daily letters to the White House come free of charge.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Well, that is quite a budget you’ve rolled out there! Maybe it’s just me, but $3.8 trillion sounds like a lot. Still, it’s a big country, so with weather stripping, repainting, mulching and fertilizing the lawn, maybe that’s just how much it takes.

My wife and I rode past a new house that is going up a few miles from where we live, and we were speculating about the value. It is an absolutely enormous pile of a building, and not very attractive in my book. I’m just guessing here, but I’d put it at anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 square feet. No kidding. It does not have so much of a garage, as an underground parking deck. I’m pretty sure they could invite the entire state of Wyoming to the housewarming and not be too crowded.

Anyway, it occurred to us that even if we were given that house as a gift, just the cost of the maintenance and taxes would put us into cardiac arrest. I wouldn’t mind meeting the people who are going to live there, so I could figure out exactly who needs or even wants that much space. I mean is this the kind of house you buy if you like hikes but hate going outdoors? Are they going to start an indoor soccer league? Do these people ever plan to vacuum their own place? (Ok, I’m just being funny there, because first I don’t think they do; and second, I suspect by the time you worked your way from the attic to the basement, it would be time to turn the old Hoover around and start sucking your way back…leaving no time for enjoying your own private Buckingham Palace.)

The problem with owning large houses is that they also require large stuff. When you’re watching your favorite show across a forty foot room, for example, the TV better be as big as a drive-in movie screen or even Big Love will look tiny. (Btw-Have you been following that show this season? Yowser!)

Our house is pretty sizable, but it’s within the range of reasonable. We don’t need furniture the size of props from an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. We can shout and hear each other even from the most distant corners, although my teenage girls have certainly denied that on occasion. “No, seriously, Dad. I just didn’t hear you. I would have washed the dog…”

My father told me long ago that houses and cars would routinely demand more of my time than anything else I would ever own. He was entirely correct, and the corollary is, the bigger the house, the more it will take from you in terms of time, energy, and money.

I suspect that is true of government as well. The more you expand it, the more you will increase the ever-present burden of keeping up with and paying for it. That doesn’t mean government should not get bigger, and offer more to its citizens. What is does mean is, everyone wants a big house when it is new and clean and just waiting for you to move in; but a lot of folks regret buying big, when hard times come, the paint is peeling, and the water heater needs replacing.

On another subject, I have not been well. Over the weekend I started feeling kind of weak in the knees and thought it might be some kind of flu. Now, I am bouncing back (but only a bit) and wondering if it is one of those “I knew that sniffling woman next to me on the airplane had something!” viruses. Which is a round about way of saying, please don’t call tonight. I need my rest.

But a card would be nice. If you can fit it into the budget.


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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. alex lyrics

    The Reagan and Bush administration started killing this countries labor, union, workforce, jobs, economy, and financial structure system.

    Then little baby bush came along and completely killed the counrtys economy as well as the worlds.

    The baby bush adminstration allowed the banks, the car manufactures, the COE's of Wall Street, and the Insurance industry to rob the United States blind.

    We left president Obama with a mess to clean up. It took Wall Street and our entire bankin Industry to fail before we would elect a black man as president.

    I beleive this whole Republican piss party of just say NO , is a tactic to force president Obama to fail. I believe this plot is so that those angry white republican men can say "SEE What Happens When You Elect A Black President. "

    This is a plot to make the first black president fail in his policies.

    The thing I am ost worrried about, is that if Obama fails we fail.

    Get my point???????????????

    February 2, 2010 at 10:45 am |
  2. Tim Gibson

    Perhaps owning a house that large is a defining moment, a theorized psychoanalysis of envy. Metaphorically linked to castration anxiety, the superego, the Odeipus Rex story, or the inability of the superego to redirect symbolic gratification.

    At any rate, one would assume that even the elite narcissist held an extended warranty, a promise expressed or implied that the buyer's title to a parcel of land will be defended, repaired or replaced in the event of failure within the house. That when the house burns, metaphorically speaking, an emergency evacuation plan is also in place.

    A guarantee that the description of the goods, their source, quality or fitness as safe durable goods dating back to the ancient Athenian democracy recalled upon full disclosure and examination of the warranty.

    February 2, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  3. Kula May R Ellison

    Hello Mr T. Foremen
    The budget ? Oh!
    Kula May

    February 2, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  4. Conserve' for USA

    $3.8 trillion dollars. That's $3.800,000,000,000.00. The President wants to spend this amount, and he says he is only going to save $20 billion dollars a year. This is a joke right?

    February 2, 2010 at 9:13 am |