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Monkey, monkey, monkey

Two headlines in today's Washington Post -- Kong Redux: Hey, You Big Ape -- Welcome Back! and Hill vs. Spending: Two 800-pound Gorillas -- immediately caught my eye. Even more interesting, when I read them, the articles seemed to be connected beyond just the headline writer's penchant for primates.

Maybe it's simply Tom Shales's lead in his look at how the giant ape with a soft spot for lovely women is reappearing in various forms and formats: "Now is the winter of our greatest ape. 'King Kong' is returning yet again, renewing old acquaintance and, presumably, terrorizing and beguiling new generations, too." It's the "terrorizing and beguiling new generations" phrase that stuck in my head when I went to the Congressional budget story (I admit it; I read movie news first, then sports and then the "real" stuff). That news story looks at the difficulty facing Congress as its members struggle with their political affiliation identities in defining the country's spending priorities and then figuring out how to come up with the money, i.e., which taxes to raise or cut.

Basically, many conservative members of Congress are struggling with the economic definition of that loaded word and just how willing they are to conserve some of the Treasury's funds, which currently are on the red-ink side of the federal ledger. To do so, many costly projects they argued for earlier might have to wait. On the other side, the more liberal (generally Democratic) members must figure out just which of the many projects they say deserve our tax dollars actually get some money. And everyone has to do this in light of war costs and Gulf Coast community rebuilding. The decisions on both sides will certainly beguile those who get the program funding and/or tax cuts they desire, while simultaneously terrorizing those on the other side.

And then there's that reference to "new generations." Isn't that really the crux of the matter? We always hear that everything, from music and movie ratings to food product labeling to what gets taught is "for the children." Well, spending and taxing decisions need to be made with an eye to the welfare of the kids, too. It's cliche because it's true: Bills we as adult taxpayers don't cover now will be picked up, with ever-accruing interest, by future taxpayers. So let's demand that our lawmakers make sure that what we're willing to go into debt for today will be worth paying for in 10, 15, 20 or more years.

Here's hoping that Capitol Hill won't become too much of a zoo as this debate plays out, and that a sane spending and taxing plan can be finalized without too much chest-beating.

P.S. -- If watching members of Congress try to resolve their differences brings to mind the expression "a monkey's uncle," you might enjoy perusing this list of Monkey Songs complied by Texas songwriter/singer Joe Ely and his Flatlander compadres.

P.P.S. (Nov. 21) -- This item was selected for inclusion in "Carnival of Personal Finance 23."

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