Three-ring budget circus

Legislators in Washington, D.C. captured the attention of the nation last week with their heated bickering over the federal budget. For months, the ominous specter of a government shut down hung like a dark cloud over the Capitol, threatening the employment of hundreds and thousands of federal employees.

However, at the eleventh hour, Republicans and Democrats came to an agreement, albeit reluctantly. Democrats praised President Obama for standing firm on preserving important domestic programs like Planned Parenthood, and Republicans praised House Speaker John A. Boehner for his notable skills with negotiating.

The nation had a collective "whew!" moment. With $38 billion slashed from the federal deficit, people could finally rest assured that the government was working hard to enact real change.

But the whole spectacle was really nothing more than a grand three-ring circus act. With the federal deficit at an historic high of $1.4 trillion, the audacity of our elected officials to be bickering over billions, when they should be worrying about trillions, is preposterous.

With every passing day, we are constantly inundated with the terms: millions, billions, and trillions. At a certain point, people tend to become numb to these figures, and the lines that separate them become blurred; but let's take a look at the magnitude of these large numbers.

If I were to start counting at a rate of one number per second for 16 hours a day (with eight hours for sleep), getting to one million would take a little over two weeks. To get to one billion would take a little less than 50 years, and to count to one trillion would take at least 50,000 years

So, as anyone can see, arguing over billions when the overwhelming issue is in the order of trillions is like bickering over a drop in the ocean.

And what's their solution to fix this mess? Democrats want to extend and raise taxes while cutting certain areas of discretionary spending, like the defense budget, for example. Republicans, on the other hand, want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (they expire next year) while slashing domestic programs which help the most poor and vulnerable Americans. They would be perfectly content to cripple Medicaid and Medicare while preserving our nation's defense budget.

President Obama's budget speech last week was commendable. The American people need a strong leader to stand up for them, and not for the top 1 percent who earn 80 percent of this country's income, resulting in the most unequal distribution of wealth among developed, first world Western countries.

Figuring out our finances really shouldn't be so difficult. Slashing domestic programs and tax extensions is like a putting a band-aid on a slashed carotid artery. What we need is a leader who will put an end to our endless and unneeded overspending on the defense budget and the most leniently taxed upper class of any developed country in the world.

To ignore these problems is not only morally reprehensible, but recklessly irresponsible towards the future well being of our country, which is in dire need of help right now.