In case you missed it, government officials in California announced just yesterday that salary for state lawmakers would be suspended, as said lawmakers had yet to reach an agreement on a balanced budget plan. In summary: No budget, no pay.
According to MSNBC, state Controller John Chiang issued the decision after running the numbers on a budget package submitted by lawmakers last week. Gov. Brown vetoed the package on grounds that it depended too heavily on “billions more in borrowing” and “questionable maneuvers,” and Chiang, finding that the budget proposal did not meet the constitutional requirements for a balanced budget, released the following statement:
My office’s careful review of the recently passed budget found components that were miscalculated, miscounted or unfinished. The numbers simply did not add up, and the Legislature will forfeit their pay until a balanced budget is sent to the governor.
As of today, after all, it has been 782 days since congressional Democrats passed a budget in Washington, D.C.
By law, Congress must pass a budget by the 15th day of April each and every year, just like you and I must pay our taxes on that date. The last time a budget was passed was in April 2009 for Fiscal Year 2010. It showed a $1.42 trillion deficit. Last year, the budget that should have been passed in April 2010 for Fiscal Year 2011 was never passed, as the same Democrats who held a majority in Congress knew that it was an election year, knew that the Tea Party movement and New Media explosion on the right allowed for more and more sunlight on activities on Capitol Hill, and therefore understood that passing a budget with an equal or greater deficit would have been more dangerous politically than not passing a budget at all. This year, after gaining control of the House of Representatives, House Republicans passed a budget on time, while the Democrat-controlled Senate has yet to move on it.
So, now that the 2010 election is over, why haven’t the Democrats passed a budget? I have my ideas, but I keep coming back to the notion that people who like to spend money they don’t have tend to shun budgetary constraints. I see it enough in family law — some couples are so darned wealthy that they can and do live without a budget, some couples live within their budgets, but some spouses tend to buy things they shouldn’t with money they simply do not have. Just as such behavior leads to the breakup of marriages, that same behavior among lawmakers on Capitol Hill could lead to the destabilization of our country.
Consider that during the dozen years in which the House of Representatives was under Republican Party control, the average budget deficit was roughly $104 billion. Since the Democrats assumed control following the mid-term elections in 2006, however, that average has skyrocketed to approximately $1.1 trillion. Those aren’t my numbers — those come from the Congressional Budget Office.
Seeing those numbers in black and white, of course, liberals will be quick to point out two things:
- During half of the time that Republicans had control of Congress, a Democrat–Bill Clinton–was in the White House.
- During the other half, and even since then, we have spent boatloads of money on prosecuting two wars.
On the first point, it should be noted that Article I of the United States Constitution requires that legislation begin in Congress and not the White House, and that the legislative branch is the branch authorized to appropriate money, not the executive branch. Before you point out that Clinton was in the White House for much of the time that the GOP had control, remember that Article I of the Constitution requires that Congress controls the pursestrings, not the president.
On the second point, it is absolutely fair to point out that the federal government did in fact spend a large amount of money on prosecuting two wars. However, the CBO has also noted that eight years of Iraq War spending cost less than the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more commonly known as President Obama’s “stimulus” bill — which, of course, hasn’t really stimulated anything. Furthermore, not only did the stimulus spending later overtake war spending over eight years, but contemporaneous spending did as well. From a ridiculously fantastic August 2010 piece at American Thinker:
The sum of all the deficits from 2003 through 2010 is $4.73 trillion. Subtract the entire Iraq War cost and you still have a sum of $4.02 trillion.
No one will say that $709 billion is not a lot of money. But first, that was spread over eight years. Secondly, let’s put that in some perspective. Below are some figures for those eight years, 2003 through 2010.
- Total federal outlays: $22,296 billion.
- Cumulative deficit: $4,731 billion.
- Medicare spending: $2,932 billion.
- Iraq War spending: $709 billion.
- The Obama stimulus: $572 billion.
There is an important note to go along with that Obama stimulus number: the stimulus did not even start until 2009. By 2019, the CBO estimates the stimulus will have cost $814 billion.
If we look only at the Iraq War years in which Bush was President (2003-2008), spending on the war was $554B. Federal spending on education over that same time period was $574B.
The big problem, honestly, is entitlement spending. And while education spending is by no means an entitlement, we need education reform that shakes the budgetary and performance burdens of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind nightmare and puts education spending and policy in the hands of states and municipalities. Different states and towns have different needs, and education spending could be more efficiently handled at that level.
After all, municipalities are more apt to require a balanced budget. And, from the look of things, as inexplicable as it may be, even California may require the same as well. It’s time for our federal government to get on board.