Governor Brian Schweitzer on Budgeting Like a Rancher Montana's financing stands as proof that government can budget responsibly, writes the state's Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer in The New York Times. "For six years it has been one of the only states in America with a budget surplus," he writes. "Thus we've been able to cut taxes, invest in education and infrastructure and keep essential services intact." Montana runs its government like it runs a ranch, he says. When the recession hit, they looked to eliminate all unnecessary expenses. "Little things added up: we renegotiated state contracts, cut our energy consumption by 20 percent, auctioned off state vehicles and canceled building projects and computer upgrades." The Federal government, on the other hand, pays for superfluous line-items like private security guards on military bases that are filled with well-trained soldiers. "Like good ranchers," he continues, "we also leave some grain in the bin in case of drought." Though state legislators all wanted to spend surpluses in times of plenty, they managed to save them, which helped them survive the recession. The federal government rarely takes such measures. "Now that federal spending is the country's top issue, Washington should try doing what any rancher or family household does: save money, live by a budget, challenge expenses, find bargains and invest wisely."
Fred Goldberg Jr. and Peter Tufano on 'Saving the Savings Bond' "This year nearly 50,000 Americans--the vast majority of them modest wage-earners--decided, under a new I.R.S. policy, to buy savings bonds with a portion of their precious tax refunds," write Fred Goldberg Jr. and Peter Tufano in The New York Times. For many, receiving a paper bond in a birthday card provides the first lesson in saving money, but the federal government is now ending the issuing of paper bonds except at tax time. "Given the continuing debate over fiscal policy, now hardly seems like the time for Treasury to make it harder for Americans to support their country by buying its debt," they write. "Moreover, the tried-and-true savings bond is a universal product. Where else can someone with as little as $50 invest in a virtually risk-free, inflation-protected, giftable, fee-free savings product with returns that often exceed the meager interest on savings accounts?" Bonds are a favorite saving method for low-income households. But several measures continue to make it harder. People can still buy treasury bonds online, but that presupposes regular Internet access and a bank account, neither of which are a guarantee among low-income savers. Instead of restricting bond sale options, they write, the government should be looking for new, modern ways to sell them, such as in a gift card format, they write.