A friend asked me casually the other day if I could explain what's going on with sequestration.
I started with a brief explanation of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which set up the budget-cutting super committee, which failed. That act also included the sequestration cuts, scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of 2013.
However, that led to the fear that the budget cuts, along with expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax cut, would push the country over a "fiscal cliff."
To avoid the fiscal cliff, the sequester cuts of $85 billion were pushed back to March 1. Then, depending on whom you believe, those cuts would grind the government to a halt or go largely unnoticed.
The real fight, I explained, will come later this month when Congress tries to decide on a funding mechanism (we don't have an actual budget).
My friend looked back at me with a blank expression. Who can blame him? How can you make sense of a process that has become absurd?
One of the fundamental functions of government is to collect the revenue necessary to pay for the services that people need and desire. It's a process millions of Americans go through every day as they weigh the benefit of a particular product or service against the cost.
Practice makes perfect, so most of us are pretty good at it. Businesses survive or shutter based on fiscal acumen, honed through the years.
Personal financial advisers tell struggling families to make a budget and stick with it.
As Dave Ramsey says, "When you spend your money on paper and on purpose each month with a written budget, you actually experience more freedom than before."
In Washington, the Congress has not passed a budget since 2009. The House has sent a number of budgets to the Senate, but that body has not passed a budget in 1,408 days.