Editorial: Test your budgetabilty

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Because this is a week to preen your patriotic feathers, we thought we might just offer a quick civics quiz. Today's subject is federal spending, which you already know all about, right?

Here we go:

1. Of the $3.6 trillion spent by Washington last year, how much of that was borrowed money?

a. One tenth

b. One fifth

c. One quarter

d. One third

2. What percent of the federal tax dollar went to health care?

a. 2 percent

b. 8 percent

c. 21 percent

d. 48 percent

3. What percent went to Social Security?

a. 10 percent

b. 20 percent

c. 30 percent

d. 40 percent

4. What percent went to defense?

a. 10 percent

b. 20 percent

c. 30 percent

d. 40 percent

5. What percent went to interest?

a. 1 percent

b. 6 percent

c. 10 percent

d. 15 percent

Let's see how you did and then we'll fill in some additional blanks.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly a third of that $3.6 trillion was borrowed money. The largest single chunk of the budget, percentage-wise, went to health care - 21 percent of all federal spending, with Medicare accounting for the lion's share. Social Security and defense spending each took 20 percent of the budget pie, while interest gobbled up 6 percent of federal spending last year.

The federal government also funds programs like food stamps, earned income and tax credits, federal aid for school meals, Supplemental Security Income and so on. This category accounted for 13 percent of all federal spending.

And the last 20 percent went to layers of federal government including the FBI, the EPA, Interior Department and other agencies.

We've presented this little exercise not just so you could brush up on important numbers but so you can thoughtfully consider where you want cuts to be made. To balance the budget, big cuts will be needed. Where would you like to begin?

Little violinist, big heart

Rules are rules, and everybody must abide by them. Make an exception and you're opening the door to anarchy.

That's basically the logic behind any set of laws, including the city of Coeur d'Alene having an ordinance on the books that requires anybody playing music and asking for donations on city property to first receive a free permit from City Hall. Yes, even an 11-year-old, violin-toting girl with a big heart for animals.

The letter of the law was being followed on Independence Day when the girl, playing her violin at City Park while being supervised by her mother, was told by a city employee that she was not allowed to do that unless she had a permit. And no, it didn't matter that she was trying to raise money for the Kootenai Humane Society; the letter of the law says no permit, no play. No exceptions.

It seems that too often, common sense is the first casualty when a tiny bit of wiggle room reading between the law's lines isn't permitted. Who would have been hurt had the city employee looked the other way when the child was playing? Heck, what would have been the harm if the employee had gently suggested she get a permit next time she wanted to raise money on city property for a good cause?

This clearly was not a case of panhandlers and ne'er-do-wells taking over public property for personal gain. A little common sense and compassion could have taught the girl a very valuable lesson in both civics and community spirit.

But as is so often the case with unfortunate events like this, some good did come from it. Readers responded not just with outrage, but with generosity, too. They donated cash to ensure that Sarah Hoatson made her goal of $110. That means a small plaque with an inscribed message will be placed on a kennel cage door for a year in Sarah's honor.

Her message is a quote from Roger Carass: "Dogs are not our whole life. They make our life whole."

Thanks for helping us see life a little more clearly, Sarah.

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