Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Our Badly Broken Budget Process

When I was taking Civics in 8th grade, I was surprised to find that some legislation I had been particularly interested in, (probably part of the space program) although it had been passed as part of the federal budget, was in trouble because the 'appropriations' bill it was part of was in trouble. I was surprised to discover that putting a program in the federal budget was only the first step in a long road toward actually getting anything accomplished. These days, besides being adopted in a budget, money for a program must then be 'appropriated', but then the spending of the money must be approved in a spending authorization bill, and then if necessary, borrowing must be approved. At every step of this process, Congress can change, re-fund, de-fund, or totally kill any program, with all the uncertainty and waste of time, energy and, yes, money, one might expect.

One might well ask, as I did, why we have all this folderol? If you pass a budget, why not make that final? The budget could appropriate, authorize, and if necessary authorize necessary borrowing, all in one fell swoop. in fact, that's pretty much how a lot of state and local budgeting processes work. Once that was done, Congress could pretty much adjourn.

However, it will take a miracle to simplify the burget process, because to do so would reduce the power of individual legislators. Make no mistake, power is the big thing in Washington, and the reason we have all these rules, plus similar abuse-prone rules such as anonymous Senatorial holds, is purely due to the desire for power and influence on the part of legislators.

For example: a bill has been languishing to permit the combining of a couple of acricultural commodity exchanges. While common-sensical and agreed to be a general good thing, most pundits agree it will never pass, solely due to the fact that one exchange comes under the jurisdiction of the Agricultural Committee, and the other is under the Commerce committee, and combining would cause one or the other to lose jurisdiction and therefore power.

When the interest of the individual Senators and Congressmen comes before the best interests of the country, then corruption has become institutionalized. It's long past time for a housecleaning (and a Senate-cleaning) to clear out this ugly buildup of privlege and streamline the doing of the nation's business.

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Tags: politics
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