Remember back when you were in high school and you had five or six classes a day with five or six different teachers? At the end of each class they would say you just had to read the next chapter, or you just had to complete a couple of pages of questions in your workbooks, or you just had to study for a quiz tomorrow. After each of those classes you probably thought "Hey that's not so bad, I just have to read one chapter!" But by the end of the day you would realize that you had four chapters to read, two assignments and a test to study for--and you wondered "Why do these teachers assign so much homework?"
I think about those high school teachers when I hear the most-ardent supporters of the Milwaukee Arena deal use their new argument for state taxpayer support of the project. "It would be just one dollar more a year" they say--meaning it would cost an extra buck in taxes (over twenty years) to build the arena and keep the Bucks in Milwaukee. Most people would hear that and think "Wow! Just one dollar a year and we can keep the Bucks and their big stars like the...uh...guy with the really hard to pronounce name...who was that again? And that really high draft choice that got hurt right away....old what's his name? Actually, we only go when LeBron is in Milwaukee."
But there are others--like me--who see that one dollar (and, really, every dollar we make) in the totality of everything else that we are spending money on. Our property taxes are going up just three-percent. The price of gas went up just two-cents a gallon this week. Our home and auto insurance increased by just $35 annually. Milk inched up just twenty cents a gallon. Student enrollment fees went up just ten dollars this fall. Our cable and broadband internet package increased just $3.50 a month. McDonald's raised the price of my favorite Extra Value Meal by just 25-cents. Our recycling fee will likely go up by just ten dollars. Health insurance premiums will go up by just ten percent next year. Home heating and electricity rates will go up by just four percent this winter. The price of beef will increase by just 15-cents a pound. And cellular calling and data packages will go up just five bucks a month.
You start adding up all of those "small" increases and suddenly every last dollar you can keep becomes more important. Especially if your household income goes up just one percent a year. The funny thing is, the reverse of this economic course is true as well. Should all of those expenses go down just a little bit--we'd all find a surprising amount of extra cash in our budgets as well. If only that would just happen.