Sep 26, 2011
Martin Kelly - See all 164 of my articles
Yet again this last week, congress considered a funding bill. This one was to provide continuing budget to the office of emergency management. There was a great deal of talk, for anyone still interested in listening, about how there could be no opposition to this bill as it was to help the poor people suffering from the flooding in the north east. The bill failed, mostly because it was not just funding for the stated problem, but also because the flooding was minor compared to other disasters that have not been addressed by the federal government, notably the fires in Texas.
The problem is not that this bill failed. It is not even that this bill was proposed. The problem is that congress has failed to address a fundamental duty of that body. They have not passed a budget. This is now coming up on two years and two separate congresses that a budget has not been established.
Why is a budget so important? The budget establishes what the government will spend. Any new projects have to find funding. It allows the various contractors who support government programs plan staffing and activities. The largest of these that the press reports on is the military, but that is now less than a third of the budget. There are a large contingent of non-government workers supporting social and infrastructure programs as well. Without a budget, governmental departments are supposed to continue to spend at the level established the previous year, but some things, such as the medical program known as Obama Care, have never been baselined and are therefore not under any fiscal control.
What about the continuing resolution that was passed last month? Actually, that was a basic duck and roll. It was more about raising the debt limit than providing budgetary guidance to the departments. It was as surrender to the cry of imminent disaster. In fact, if the continuing resolution had not been passed and the debt limit had not been approved, the government would have continued pretty much without effect on 99% of people. There would have been mandatory reduction in all departments, social security would have continued without interruption (it is a separate tax) but the big effect would have been zeroing out spending on all non-baselined activities. Obama Care and any remaining funds I the bailouts would have been deleted. Basically, everything that the last two congresses have passed but not budgeted, would have been halted.
I am not going to discuss whether these projects should be funded, that is the debate that the congress has to have. What I am condemning is the apparent abdication of responsibility of the congress to pass a budget and hold the government to some sort of spending control.
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