Every now and then I hear an argument that the government needs to tighten its belt and cut spending just like a family or a business would have to in the face of increasing debt. The government, however, is significantly different from a family or business, because it is large enough to influence the entire economy with its spending. While it is perfectly legitimate to advocate for spending cuts, it is unreasonable to use comparisons to individual households/businesses to support the claim.
If I lose my job and have to cut my spending, it won't have a significant effect on the economy of the nation, or even my street. During my hypothetical unemployment, it would have no effect on my employment prospects whether or not I max out my credit cards, because I don't have the economic power to significantly change the output of the whole system.
The federal government, which has a total budget of around $3.8 trillion, has such power. Spending/borrowing cuts by Washington would cause shifts in the economy which would hurt total output (at least in the short term, and in the long term as well according to classic economic theory). Given the link between total output and government revenues, it's not even a lock that cutting spending would help the deficit.
Across Europe, government have been slashing their budgets in an attempt to balance the books. But the continent now finds itself sliding back into recession, with countries that cut their government spending more slowing more than countries with governments that cut less.
The economy's complex. Professional economists spend their careers trying to come up with scientific ways to explain this or that. We can't afford to have voters making decisions based on false comparisons like confusing a family's budget with the government's.