Congress’ budget gimmickry is never-ending
Back from its extended summer vacation, America’s parttime Congress prolonged a budget crunch. In December, the body will undoubtedly victimize taxpayers using the same gimmickry legislators have exploited for years.
Congress employs “baseline budgeting,” a spending accelerator favored by both parties’ big spenders, to guarantee annual increases for federal agencies and programs regardless of their merit or benefits to taxpayers.
Baseline.org’s website explains: “[A] baseline government budget involves carrying over the current spending level from year to year and treating it as the floor on which to build additional spending changes. The major assumption in this approach is that the existing spending level of the agency is correct and needs no adjustment.”
Except for increases, of course.
Spending watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) writes: “In reality, baseline budgeting is one of the most sinister ways that politicians claim to cut spending when they are actually increasing spending.”
If an agency requests a seven percent budget increase, but Congress authorizes only three percent, the difference, which merely reduces the rate of increase, is called a “budget cut.”
CAGW: “[I]f an agency’s budget is projected to grow by $100 million, but only grows by $75 million, according to baseline budgeting, that agency sustained a $25 million cut.”
In that way, spending always increases, and government programs never die, not even useless, outdated or redundant ones.
Since 2011, the Government Accountability Office has issued annual reports identifying duplication or overlapping waste in agencies and programs. Congress ignores them.
In a sane world, Congress would do what working families do: Calculate howmuch money the government will have in a fiscal year and then, based on sensible priorities, budget how to spend the funds.
But there’s little sanity in Washington, otherwise, America’s debt couldn’t have outgrown its economic output.
A 2010 Rasmussen survey reported that 83 percent of Americans believed the size of federal budget deficits was due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more taxes. Somewhat surprisingly, two-thirds of Democrats agreed. Only 11 percent of all voters thought the government spent taxpayers’ money wisely. Overwhelming majorities still blame Washington profligacy on both parties.
Big-government Republican and Democratic establishments both face internal schisms, Republicans from anti-establishment fiscal conservatives and Democrats from their growing anti-establishment socialist faction. Most congressional Republicans and Democrats have far more in common with each other than they do with the antiestablishment wings they see as bigger threats than their coun- terparts across the aisle.
Elected elites haven’t yet fully grasped the determination of their internal opposition, so congressional members of both parties have united to preserve Washington’s broken status quo, which, of course, includes their incumbencies.
Congress alone costs taxpayers about $16 million per day (times 365 days) in salaries, allowances and miscellaneous costs. Eventually, opposition will replace or insolvency will induce Congress to summon the cumulative willpower to seek help for its addiction to power and perks, psychological afflictions of which spending is a primary symptom.
Jerry Shenk is a Pennsylvaniabased columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org