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Time for New Budgeting Rules

Monday April 23rd, 2018   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 6:03am PDT   •  

37700410 - out of control words on a warning sign showing danger of uncontrollable behavior, mismanagement or not following or obeying rules and laws The process for setting a sound fiscal budget for the U.S. government is badly broken. So much so that the chair of the Senate’s budget committee, Mike Enzi, is suggesting that his congressional committee should be eliminated altogether.

Alexander Bolton of The Hill reports on the provocative proposal:

Enzi’s seemingly radical suggestion comes as a special bipartisan committee prepares to hold its first hearing on reforming the budgetary process, which Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a former House Budget Committee chairman, this weekend called “irreparably broken.”

Enzi said in 2016 that he would be open to scrapping the Budget Committee as part of a larger effort to reform the congressional spending process, a GOP aide explained, adding that the chairman doesn’t plan to shut down his own committee anytime soon.

Congress has missed the requirement set out by the Congressional Budget Act to pass a concurrent budget resolution by April 15, and GOP lawmakers say they do not expect to pass a budget before the end of this election year.

For U.S. politicians, addressing any aspect of the budget these days means having to confront the unpleasant reality of trying to sustain the excessive levels of spending they desire, where they must either vote to impose higher taxes on the middle class or to cut spending on popular programs to have any chance of reaching a fiscal balance.

It’s not just the current Republican majority in the Senate that is proving unequal to the task of establishing an effective process for setting the budget of the U.S. government. It was also clearly evident when the Senate was controlled by a Democrat party majority led by Harry Reid, which famously failed to even try to pass any kind of budget for years on end during the Obama administration.

Consequently, no matter which party controls the Congress, trillion dollar annual deficits are likely to increasingly be the result of a budgeting process that doesn’t work, where the Budget committees in both the House and Senate have little-to-no success to show for their existence. Especially in the last decade.

Something needs to change. The last major reform of the budgeting process was the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, which was meant to fix the federal government’s budgeting process, but which instead inaugurated the era of frequent federal government shutdowns and ballooning deficits as part of Washington D.C.’s political “business-as-usual”. It created the apparently useless Budget committee and oversight system on Capitol Hill.

The Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, which will be considering the potential actions that the U.S. Congress might take to get the U.S. government’s fiscal house in order, held its first meeting last week. Whether anything will come of it remains to be seen, but it will be the place to watch to see how seriously U.S. politicians are taking the need to establish greater fiscal discipline over the U.S. government’s spending while its hearings are ongoing.

The real test will be when any reform proposals are put before the entire U.S. Congress. Unfortunately, following the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, we know that body’s membership is filled with far too many politicians who reap benefits from the status quo set in 1974 and the absence of restraints on the excessive spending they desire to be willing to do much to rein in their power.

Unless something changes to dramatically increase the political pressure upon them to commit to reforms that benefit the nation against their established interests.

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April 2018