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Deciding how much money the government will spend

A big argument is going on right now in the United States Congress on how much money the US government is going to spend next year.

Each year the government needs huge sums of money to pay for things like education, health care, special help for the poor and the elderly, and defense. Defense means the Army, the Navy, and Air Force combined.

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When Congress finally decides on an amount for the budget, it will add up to billions and billions of dollars. A billion is 1,000 millions.

What nobody knows is just how many billions.

Last February, President Reagan thought the budget should be $757.6 billion, the largest in history. That was the figure he quoted when he presented his budget for 1983. Actually, the budget year runs from Oct. 1 this year to Sept. 30 next year.

The US budget is a yearly estimate on what money will be received by the federal government, and how much will be spent.

The amount the President asks for in his budget tells people what things are important to the President. For instance, President Reagan wants to spend more money on defense. There are many people who don't agree with the President that a lot more money should be spent on defense. They would rather see the money go to other things.

The difficulty for the President is that he does not always get what he wants.

Congress, which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate, has its own ideas about what is important.

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Since both the House of Representatives and the Senate consist of two rival political parties - the Republicans and the Democrats - it is very hard for both these parties plus the President to agree on the same amount of money for the budget.

Eventually, there will have to be a compromise. A compromise is a kind of meeting halfway. It means everybody gives in a little so that an agreement can be reached. If they didn't, the government would grind to a halt. After a great deal of discussion the President and his own party, the Republicans, have been able to come to just such an agreement. The same agreement has still to be reached with the Democrats.

What Congress does on a much bigger scale for the country is what many individuals and families do in a much smaller but still important way for themselves. That is to budget their expenses. To make a weekly or monthly plan on how to spend money is a good discipline. It cuts waste and ensures that whatever money people have will be spent more wisely.

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