Framing the Dialogue

Penny Wise and Dollar Foolish

Penny wise and dollar foolish is a way my mother might describe someone who pinches their pennies yet wastes many dollars.  There are many examples of this in our culture.  How many of you knew someone last summer when gas prices were over $4.00 per gallon would drive out of their way to save 1 or 2 cents per gallon?  They probably spent $2.00 in gas to save 50 cents for their fill up. 

I have to admit, that I paid close attention to gas prices and would plan my errands around where the cheaper gas was.  I did not make special trip, but would top off my tank if I passed a station with lower priced gas. 

Do you know someone who clips grocery coupons yet always buys name brand products?  I shop at Costco and they often have coupons.  It is a crazy time to shop at Costco when their coupons start.  I have noticed, however, that even with their coupons the Kirkland products are usually cheaper and just as good.  Sometimes that takes a little math, but that is what I find.  I often can get twice as many Kirkland ibuprofen for less money than Advil. 

As I was driving this afternoon, I was struck by a news story.  In his first cabinet meeting, President Barack Obama is demanding that his cabinet slash spending by $100 million.  That is a lot of money, but as I thought about the amounts bandied about these days that is not all that much.  That would amount to 30 cents per American or “penny wise.”  You must remember that in addition to the stimulus bill, this administration has proposed a $3.6 trillion budget.   By the way, that $100 million savings will be spread over several years while the $3.6 TRILLION budget is for one year.

I could not get past the fact that I was thinking that 100 million dollars seemed like a pittance (or penny).  We are talking about $100,000,000.00.  It looks much larger when you write it out that way.  The news media was all aghast at how much money Obama was forcing his cabinet to save.  They spoke breathlessly about the tough cuts Obama was seeking.  Some of the savings was going to be realized through buying paper in bulk, sharing printers and reducing the number of offices.

My immediate question was “Why haven’t we been doing this all along?”  I thought we had a General Services Administration that was supposed to do combine purchasing.  It is interesting that with all of the budget problems that we have been having; they just now figured out that we could save money by buying in bulk.  These folks have never been to Sam’s Club.  Maybe, hold on to your hats, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS TOO BIG! 

I have another suggestion to the Obamas for a way to save some taxpayer money.  They can halt the planned weekly cocktail parties or “social events.” 

“It’s not so much a cocktail party necessarily,” Katie McCormick Lelyveld, press secretary to first lady Michelle Obama, told “It’s a gathering that takes on the shape of the week’s agenda. The driving force is to reserve time Wednesday evenings to have at hand to use for whatever is at the top of the list of priorities that week.”

A recent menu featured:

“Celery Soup, Wild Mushroom Crisps, Steelhead Salmon with Citrus sauce, Crispy Spinach, Toasted Saffron Couscous Pearls, Baby Iceberg lettuce with Maytag Bleu Cheese and Yogurt ranch dressing and for dessert, Milk Chocolate velvet cake” – all served on gold-rimmed china.”

This seemed like being penny wise to me while the Administration is clearly being dollar foolish with the budget.  Rush Limbaugh said something that hit home about the budget numbers.  It is sad, but 100 million sounds bigger than 3.6 trillion to most folks.  His take was to refer to 4 billion as 4,000 million. 

When you contrast a $100 million dollar savings over a few years to a 3,600,000 million dollar ANNUAL budget proposal, Obama is being penny wise and dollar foolish…

…with our money.

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