Congress Fails Budgeting—and It’s Your Fault
It’s astounding, really: The American government—still a beacon of good governance in much of the world—is utterly failing to carry out one of its most basic functions.
By mid-April—more than two months ago—the House and Senate were supposed to produce a spending plan for the coming fiscal year. But neither one has put together a budget resolution. (We talked before about the possibility that Congress would scrap the budget. They’re doing a lot of other stuff, of course.)
The “budget resolution” is Congress’ spending plan, painting in broad brush-strokes where the money will come from and where it will go.
After a budget resolution passes, the appropriations committees in the House and Senate divide up spending targets among their subcommittees, and the subcommittees go to work specifying precise amounts to spend on the myriad programs and projects our government funds.
By the end of this week, the House is supposed to have finished not just a budget resolution, but each of the appropriations bills. But there’s no budget resolution, there are no appropriations bills, and obviously no appropriations bills have passed. The only thing that has happened is that the Senate Budget Committee has forwarded a plan to the full Senate—about $29,000 in spending per U.S. family.
The upshot for you is that you don’t get a look at the process. You won’t read as many news stories about how your money will be spent. Advocacy groups will have reduced input into the process. Spending decisions for fiscal year 2011 will be made by the smallest, tightest group of Washington insiders possible. Spending transparency is on the trash heap.
How can Congress possibly get away with this? Look in the mirror. Have you asked your Member of Congress where the budget resolution is? Are you going to vote your representative out because he or she has allowed the budget process to collapse?
Probably not. Your lack of oversight is what allows this to happen.
So let’s talk about you, and what you can do: Call your member of Congress and each of your senators. The number for the Capitol switchboard is (202) 224-3121. Be polite but firm—ask why there hasn’t been a budget resolution and what your representative is doing about it. Take note of who you talk to and call them again after a week. Has there been progress on the budget yet?
Next send this blog post around to friends and colleagues asking them to do the same. If each person convinces one other person to make the same calls to Congress about the budget, Congress will take note if it, and it’s behavior will change.
We realize that we haven’t done enough to make involvement easy for you. We’re sorry for our part in letting things get as bad as they have. But for now we’re making it your job to be a little bit active in the management of your government. Your children and grandchildren will thank you.