Dear Washington: Please Be More Like Sacramento (seriously)

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.

I never thought I would ever write or say such a thing, but for the first time that I can remember, I wish that our federal government could be more like California.

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:

  1. During half of the time that Republicans had control of Congress, a Democrat–Bill Clinton–was in the White House.
  2. 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.

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Comments

  1. Bob Upton says:

    Truth be known, the likely reason that democratic Controller Chiang decided to stop the legislator’s paychecks was the lawyers from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s association standing outside his door with a lawsuit in hand.

    Proposition 25 was passed last year with wide democratic support because it reduced the required votes down to 50% for state tax increases. That part strengthened the democrat’s continued stranglehold on the sinking economy of California. However, the one good part of this proposition was the bait-and-switch sales gimmick which got it passed, the “no budget, no pay ” clause. They thought that would be a non-issue for them since democrats could easily pass their budgets with the new 50% rule. The perfect storm of the perfectly awful liberal engineered economic disaster in the state causing more people to wake up to reality and a governor who is actually going against his entire history and standing strong on fiscal responsibility put the dems square in the cross-hairs of their own proposition.

    You gotta appreciate political irony and poetic justice when they meet!

  2. graypanther says:

    “education spending and policy in the hands of states and municipalities….education spending could be more efficiently handled at that level.”

    Ah, yes. One of California’s biggest fiscal roadblocks — almost never referred to outside the state — is that 54% of state spending goes for public education. That number staggers me every time I see it.

    Meanwhile, the quality of that education has plummeted over the last thirty years, and saving money will be difficult, because teachers aren’t likely to work for less than they do now — they put in too many uncompensated hours to be amenable to concessions.

    Honestly, I think this is the single biggest economic problem facing California, and not enough people want to talk about solutions to it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Now that there, is a ‘Terminator’ !

  4. bobupton says:

    Jeff,

    You have no idea the power you wield.
    They heard you man!

    http://majorityleader.gov/newsroom/2011/06/leader-cantor-house-to-consider-balanced-budget-amendment-1.html

    Let’s pray this happens.

  5. Gail B. says:

    I’m actually grinning!

  6. Dean says:

    Does anyone REALLY believe that a Federal Balanced Budget amendment will ever pass? A Democrat controlled Legislative branch will never vote for it because it won’t let them spend enough on their social engineering programs. A Republican controlled Legislative branch will never vote for it because it will not allow the wealthy to continue making the obscene amounts of money they can when there are no budget rules (except their own). I am conservative in most facets of my life, but I refuse to be identified as a Republican because the Republican party does NOTHING for the middle income earner – it is all about the wealthy patrons of the Republicans in office. Quite frankly, I don’t think Boehner, Bachman, Romney, Santorum, Cain, Trump, Gingrich – not one Republican – gives a damn about the people in the middle or lower socioeconomic classes in this country. I get more and more disappointed every day in our elected leadership and am ready to give up on all of them. They are all a total waste of time and human genetic material!

  7. bobupton says:

    Dean @ 3:58,

    I agree with you that chances are slim for passage of a FBB Amendment at this moment for a number of reasons. I agree with your assessment of the democrat’s motives for opposition but I don’t follow you on the republican side.

    What wealthy are making obscene amounts of money that would be adversely affected by a FBB? What is an obscene amount of money? What do you want government to do for the middle income earner or any other earner except let them keep their money.

    Both party’s legislators are overpopulated with elitists as you imply. That’s why you and I must not give up but work to elect real representatives of the people.

    May we both have an opportunity to make obscene amounts of money one day and may we be responsible and charitable enough to use it to the benefit of those around us out of the true goodness of our hearts rather than have it redistributed by the faux “goodness” of the government!

  8. Randy Wills says:

    To “Dean” @ 3:58 PM:

    And exactly what would you like the Republicans to do for “the people in the middle or the lower socioeconomic classes in this country”?

    Would that by any chance include wealth re-distribution? Where in the Constitution does it allude to the government taking income from one class of citizen and giving it to another, regardless of the disparity that may (and always will in a free society) exist? Why is the fact that one person is wealthier than another make it fair to take from one and give to another? There is no such thing as forced charity.

    No one has more compassion for the “lowly” citizen than I do because, having been born in the midst of the Great Depression, that is the story of my life, but all I want the government to do is to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to exercise their own free will and intitiative, using whatever skills, abilities, and gifts that God gave them.

    Human nature is what it is, and there is nothing that the government can do to ameliorate that condition. Some people have advantages that others don’t, but it is not the government’s role to “level the playing field”, but rather to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity (i.e. education and non-discrimination) to grow from within the circumstances into which they were born.

    The result of government trying to engineer economic outcomes for individuals, usually for political purposes, is the inevitable loss of initiative and sense of personal responsibility that motivates the better side of human nature and makes life worth living.

    Randy

  9. nana3 says:

    Excellent comment, Randy…especially the last paragraph. My role models have always been my parents who grew up in the Depression and who came from good, hard-working families who had no money…widowed mothers who had to raise their children with no assistance from anyone. They provided for themselves by growing their own food and LIMITING THEIR SPENDING! My father started his own business on a wing and a prayer after serving in the Army during WWII..my Mother worked hard too and they raised five children with NO help from anyone except the local banker who took a chance and loaned them money to get started. Years later, they attained a reasonable degree of financial security but they never forgot where they came from and what it took to get there without a formal education. They helped so many people along the way…I remember seeing stacks of checks from customers who could not pay for their groceries that week so my Dad would hold their checks because they needed food for their families. Of course, many never got caught up but it never bothered him. They were the most generous people I have ever known. We are losing that initiative and spirit in America and the fabric of our society is being destroyed. Some will never know the personal satisfaction of achieving success on their own..there is no shame or dishonor in asking for help but the shame is in taking and never giving back. Those in our gov’t who foster the loss of self-reliance in our people are the worst traitors of all because they are robbing many of experiencing the American Dream and instead are forcing the American Nightmare on all of us. How can a nation survive when we are standing with our hands out looking to Washington instead of lifting our hands up to God and standing on our own two feet?

  10. Randy Wills says:

    Amen, “nana3″ and thanks for your usual wise comment.

    Was it not Karl Marx who preached that it was essential to create dependency on the government in order to achieve control of the masses? We appear to be well on our way towards that end.

    God have mercy on this country and those who choose to live in blissful ignorance – or should we say denial? – of how the pieces of the “Big Plan” to enslave humanity in a Godless world are falling into place. Have you noticed that even the name “God” is now becoming divisive and removed from public pronouncements, and yet recognition of, and obedience to, Him was a foundational basis for our Constitution?

    Can our nation stand without that common belief, leading to moral self-government by the masses? My answer is “No”.

    Randy

  11. Dee says:

    nana3, my family went through the same thing. They worked hard, asked for nothing, and did it on their own. I have mentioned in the past how they were embarrassed by a “free” box of government cheese that was given to them during the 1 1/2 years that my father was out of work. They also grew their own food, raised chickens and turkeys, and used the money my brother and I earned on our paper route. Each Thanksgiving and Christmas, my parents would put together a box of food with a fresh turkey in it and gave it to a neighbor who had less than we did. My father built the house we lived in and we lived in the basement for 3 years until it was finished. Each Spring we had to share the basement with the new peeps that my parents would raise. I would not change anything about my childhood. It made me appreciate everything I have and what it took for me to get it.
    Randy, I agree that there are many who want to remove “God” from the public and those who believe are belittled and mocked as “clinging to their guns and bibles”. I think the country will be worse off if it continues.

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