Edition


Vol. 44, No. 3

Editor’s Note: In This Edition

For years, fiscal gurus and budgetary experts have been warning us about the long term implications of spending more than we take in. The economy will collapse, they warned. Social Security and other important programs will become unaffordable. The standard of living that millions of people had grown accustomed to will no longer exist. For […]

After the Revolution

U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) speaks on America’s dissatisfaction with Obama’s promised revolution of hope and change and what must now be done. “They have learned that change isn’t always for the better. Sometimes it is a return to the failed policies and discredited ideas of the past.”

A Recipe for Economic Disaster

“In order to help keep small businesses on the forefront of the markets, it is critical that leaders in Washington foster an environment that encourages creativity and promotes free enterprise.”

In Memoriam- Art Lifson

Medicare’s Crisis of Accountablility

Accountability seems to be a watchword in Washington these days. It is preached by the President, spoken by the Speaker, and has become a standard component of Democratic rhetoric this year.

Advice for My Party As I Head for the Door

BOB BENNETT“As I look out at the political landscape now, I find plenty of slogans on the Republican side, but not very many ideas.” The concern I have is that ideology and a demand for absolute party purity endangers our ability to govern once we get into office. A personal story – back in 1976, […]

Why Missile Defense Is Still Needed

Some arguments are worth repeating. “Take missile defense. The basic justification for developing this weapon system has not changed much since President Reagan proposed it in 1983. But the threats have changed.”

The Perfect Storm, Part I:

“Congress and the Administration must rein in spending and stabilize federal debt relative to GDP.”

The Perfect Storm, Part II: What the Crisis will Look Like When it Hits

Maya MacGuineas makes predictions about the path our nation is headed and presents an argument on what should be done: “To get out of this mess, and we would ultimately have to do what politicians were trying to avoid—raise taxes and cut spending – but to a much greater degree than we ever would have […]

The Perfect Storm, Part III: While Congress Slept

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi discusses how the failure of Congress to pass the budget is to neglect their duty and responsibility. “The majority leadership of this Congress is not doing something, and it’s running our country’s financial future into the ground.”

The Most Important Governor to Watch

“Voters aren’t stupid. But they often don’t pay attention to the details of public policy, especially at the state level. That’s why, when a forceful political leader comes along and points out the obvious, big things can happen fast.”

Moderates and the Wimp Factor

Lou Zickar, the Ripon Forum’s Editor, challenges moderate Republicans to be tough rather than live up to their reputation of being soft. “To counter this perception, moderate Republicans need to find the fiscal equivalent of a pork rind – something that will let them demonstrate their fiscal resolve and commitment to reducing the national debt.”

The Ripon Profile of Charlie Dent

“As Republicans, we must present a concise and understandable agenda that speaks to the economic and fiscal issues that are currently the greatest concern to the American public. “

The Perfect Storm, Part III: While Congress Slept

Failure to pass a budget is a dereliction of duty

Where is the budget?

That’s the question every American should be asking. Congress is way past April, when the budget is supposed to be done, and the majority party has been afraid to bring the required budget to the floor. The majority leadership of this Congress is not doing something, and it’s running our country’s financial future into the ground.

In a speech on the House floor on June 22, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) confirmed that the House Democrats will not pass a budget this year. His speech was disappointing at best and irresponsible at worst. Doesn’t the Constitution demand that Congress exist to “lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises to pay the debts and provide for…general welfare of the United States”?

When did it become an option to just NOT pass a budget to help ensure the country’s financial welfare?

Granted, it’s not an easy task. In fact, it’s so hard that we find our country $13 trillion in debt. But that’s exactly why passing and sticking to a budget is more crucial now than ever before. Giving up because it’s hard is an example of the worst kind of leadership. Congress can’t just sneak by without passing a budget and not expect to feel the repercussions of such inaction for many years to come. If this is the standard by which Congress is choosing to do its business, then what basic but necessary duty will they next choose to flat out neglect?

Congress can’t just sneak by without passing a budget and not expect to feel the repercussions of such inaction for many years to come.

It’s not just a dereliction of duty. It’s a glaring example of Congress being asleep at the switch at the worst possible time for our Nation.

Congress needs to take a page from the hardworking families in this country who don’t have the option of giving up on their financial obligations and responsibilities. Individuals and families set a personal budget to keep their spending in check. Since money doesn’t grow on trees, it means we all need to make decisions about surviving with limited funds whether it be in our own lives or at the federal level as elected officials. We can’t keep printing money. Instead, we need to learn to keep spending in check and the first step is to set a budget.

If a family spends more money on books per month than movies, it would be reasonable to say that reading is more of a priority to that family than movies. The act of making choices through a budget forces families and individuals to flesh out priorities. The same should happen for Congress. Congress needs to perform the basic task of budgeting to make sure our priorities aren’t off kilter and that our budget is meeting the country’s needs in the most efficient way possible.

As an accountant, failing to budget simply makes my head spin. But to add insult to injury, in the past few years after Congress has actually passed a budget, they have then failed to have a meaningful discussion on the appropriations bills that follow the budget and that actually specify where money should go. Instead of allowing amendments and multiple votes on appropriations bills, the majority would lump most of the massive appropriations bills into one mega bill at the end of the year without allowing an opportunity to makes changes. These large bills are called omnibus bills. They are a bad way of legislating and make for faulty laws.

…to add insult to injury, in the past few years after Congress has actually passed a budget, they have then failed to have a meaningful discussion on the appropriations bills that follow the budget and that actually specify where money should go.

But what is the point of having a budget if there are ways to skirt around the spending limits?

Not surprisingly, Congress has found a myriad of ways to waive budget rules and keep on spending. One of the favorite ways of doing this is by labeling all sorts of spending as “emergency spending,” which increases the debt at rapid levels.

The Senate recently considered a $59 billion “emergency” supplemental appropriations bill. Known as H.R. 4899, the bill included money for some very real emergencies. But it also included millions of dollars in non-emergency funds. However, since it was labeled as an “emergency” by some of my colleagues, they thought it was okay to add to the deficit. I don’t buy it – especially since the kicker is a lot of that cost comes up year after year and can easily be planned for. Years of budget gimmicks like this and wasteful spending have brought us to the point we are now – with an out-of-control debt.

It took around 200 years for the country’s debt to reach $1 trillion and eight years to reach $3.4 trillion in 2009. Yet in the past 16 months, the national debt has risen to $13 trillion. That’s $42,000 per person in America. So far this year, 40 cents of every dollar spent by the federal government is borrowed. Something has to give. There are steps that must be taken to get this country on the right path.

This Congress needs to grab this responsibility by the horns and not let inaction be its legacy.

It starts with setting and sticking to a budget that cuts funding followed by a serious discussion of appropriations bills with adequate time to look over and debate them. Reforms of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other entitlement programs should be close behind. It all starts with a budget.

This Congress needs to grab this responsibility by the horns and not let inaction be its legacy. There’s another quote from the past that fits our present situation – all that it takes for bad things to happen is for good men to do nothing.
Neglecting to pass a budget is doing nothing.RF

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) is the Senate’s only accountant by profession. He is a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee and a member of the Senate Finance Committee.