Ever seen a balance scale with just one side?

That would be pretty stupid, and useless.

After all, a balance scale has two sides – two equal-length arms with equally weighted pans suspended from each – so you can compare a mass of unknown weight to one whose weight is known, thereby determining the weight of the former.

When the two pans balance perfectly, you know that the weights of the masses in them are equal.

Of course, you can add or subtract from either side, depending on which object you want to match the other.

Balancing budgets is basically the same. Income has to match outgo, or debts start piling up and disaster looms. If there's too much money going out or too little coming in, something's got to be subtracted from one side or added to the other.

A private individual who finds himself coming up short may consider looking for a better job or taking on a second one, but the first thing he's likely to do is sit down and figure out what can be cut back. It may mean putting off buying a new car, cancelling a gym membership, eating out less, and so on.

A private company will make similar calculations, putting off the things it would like to do until it can afford to do them.

Politicians and the governments they administer are less likely to be self-denying. Their solution for budgetary imbalances almost always is to increase revenue by raising taxes, fees, and fines on the public, who are then obliged to scrimp even more.

In his final state of the state address, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin predictably called for tax increases to balance the state budget.

Where were the proposals for programs and services to be trimmed, for reductions in staff and benefits? Nowhere to be found.

That's because the governor and his Democratic allies are using a one-sided balance, and it is pretty stupid.

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