As a teenager (back in the age of dinosaurs), one of the things I remember is being asked to read the newspaper as a part of high school history class. I was not a news junkie back then, and reading a newspaper (the New York Times was the school’s paper of choice) was a very frustrating experience. When reading the articles, I often felt like someone who walks into the theater in the middle of the movie. Even if I understood the story, I had no clue to the events that had preceded the story. Some of the budget debates in Congress have given me that same feeling.
The Senate has not passed a budget since 2009. Why? Well, it seems that the answer is actually rather simple. About.com has an information page about the 2009 Budget. The page explains that the 2009 Budget created the largest deficit in the history of America ($1.413 trillion). The 2009 Budget was unusually large because of the extra spending needed in the recession. There are some valid questions as to whether that level of spending is still needed since we are supposedly in the midst of an economic recovery. However, by passing Continuing Resolutions rather than a budget, the Senate can continue the levels of spending in the 2009 Budget. Because of the concept of ‘baseline’ budgeting, government spending will be based on the numbers in the inflated 2009 Budget–without any debate on the validity of those numbers. That is the reason for continuing trillion dollar deficits, and it also explains why the Senate has not been willing to discuss or pass a budget since 2009.
We are about to enter a debate on raising the debt ceiling of America. I strongly suggest that the Republicans in Congress (I don’t expect the Democrats to do this, although it would be wonderful if they did.) should demand that the Senate pass a budget before they agree to raise the debt ceiling. If we are going to increase the amount of money given to Washington, we need to know ahead of time how they are planning to spend it. Just one more note on the budget. As Congress continues spend more than it takes in, the Treasury continues to either borrow money or print money. As more money is printed, the value of the money already in circulation decreases. That is one of many reasons the cost of gasoline at the pump is higher than the current cost of crude oil at the pump warrants (It should be noted that the state and federal government make more money on the sale of a gallon of gas than the oil companies that sell the gas). That is one way runaway spending by the government impacts all of us. It is time to take the charge card away from Congress and force them to live within their means.