Public Enemy #1


Anthony and Mrs. Weiner during gayer times, apparently at the Mauritius Independence Day parade



















This is the problem with our economy, right here. Get ready for the one Anthony Weiner piece that has nothing to do with sex. Or sexting. Or sextuplets.

The man pictured above, as you probably know, is America’s newest ex-congressman. Some embarrassing details recently came out about him, each revelation more damning than the previous one, culminating in by far the most shameful one of all. From the London Daily Mail:

Anthony Weiner owes between $10,000 and $15,000 on his American Express card.

This man was entrusted with 1/435 of congressional spending decisions. Considering that the current year’s budget sits at $3.8 trillion, you could argue that Weiner was responsible for spending $8.8 billion of your money.

Read that again: a man with a 5-digit credit card bill was making financial decisions for you and me.

It gets better. Over each of the last three years he averaged more than $700 in parking tickets. Well, that’s how much he averaged in unpaid tickets. We’re not sure how many parking infractions he incurred and actually paid for. Weiner also committed fraud by placing the registration sticker for one of his cheaper cars on his more expensive SUV.

The story implies that Weiner owns at least 3 vehicles. While living in a two-person household. And carrying up to $15,000 in American Express debt. (Not sure if he has other cards.) As to why someone who lives in the most urbanized part of the country and doesn’t have kids is driving a Nissan Pathfinder (current models run about $30,000), you’ll have to ask private citizen Weiner.

Maybe he paid cash for all the cars, and isn’t carrying any monthly payments. And maybe he and his wife have a healthy marriage, too.

And – we’re so not done yet – that part about not having kids? Weiner recently announced that he and his wife of a year are expecting a child. A fortuitous announcement, made a couple of weeks ago, because the pregnancy status of congressmen’s wives is routinely of interest to the nation. Good for the Weiners, though: when you’ve got a large liability on your books, one that’s costing you probably 19% interest, that’s the time you want to create another mouth to feed. (Never mind that Weiner will be in his mid-60s when the kid graduates high school.)

Look at the details of his expenditures. See those monthly processing fees? Weiner was paying for the privilege of spending his own money – money he collected as a servant of the United States taxpayer.

If you’re on the fence about leaving a comment on today’s post, leave one in response to the following question: What would be the harm in requiring candidates for Congress to carry zero credit card debt? Or at least in requiring them not to be paying processing fees, which are among the most idiotic and unnecessary expenditures a person can incur? Such a requirement would never become law, because the mice are in charge of the cheese, but still.

A man in his mid-40s, with zero dependents (his wife has a full-time job), and a (useless, political science) degree from a state college, making a six-digit salary, and this is what his personal finances look like.

That Weiner’s inability – no, refusal – to build wealth and take responsibility for his finances barely warranted a mention during his recent story arc in the news is yet another symptom of a fatal disease. His negative cash flow isn’t even remarkable by congressional standards. And again, every sentence in this post could be followed by the following: he’s partially responsible for authorizing federal expenditures.

If you’re nonchalant about your credit card bills to the point where you’re incurring processing fees every single month, many of them in the high triple-digits, while incurring parking tickets regularly and buying more cars than you can possibly drive, why on earth would you bother being judicious when spending other people’s money?

Weiner represented less than ¼% of the problem, too. His ilk remain and continue to spend taxpayer money at uncontrollable (and uncontrollably accelerating) rates. It bears repeating that every dollar confiscated from taxpayers doesn’t only carry the potential to be wasted, but reduces the taxpayers’ own autonomy proportionally. That’s one fewer dollar that could have been invested back in the economy as its original owner saw fit. Meanwhile, the congressman who carries no credit card debt, earns money by providing a legitimate service in the private sector, doesn’t draw a pension on principle, and refuses to let his kids put taxpayers on the hook by financing their educations via student loans, is beyond rare.

Weiner can find money when there’s a sufficiently important purpose in the balance, however. He had somehow managed to scrounge up $3 million for a run at a forthcoming New York mayoral race. The people get the government they deserve, indeed.

**This article is featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance #315: Bring on the Long Weekends**