Monday, August 20, 2012

Government Procedural Reforms: Part 4

This is a continuation of challenge no. 4. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

Continuing on, my next two procedural reforms that will "help move Congress and the executive office back to being a government of the people and for the people" are related to government spending. I don't know if you guys know this, but our nation is, like, sooo in debt. My calculator doesn't even go that high. It's pretty disturbing. So, here are reforms #7 and #8 out of ten, reforms that could potentially keep our country's representatives from acting like a bunch of teenage girls at the mall with their parents' credit card:


The most basic responsibility Congress has is deciding how much money the government takes in and how much it spends (and no one can argue that our spending and debt is spiraling out of control). Congress has passed its spending bills on time only four times since 1952. In the last 14 years, annual spending bills have been submitted an average of four months late.

The upshot is more wasteful and inefficient government. When Congress fails to pass spending bills on time, it relies on temporary spending measures called continuing resolutions – which provide the money federal agencies need to operate based roughly on what they spent the previous year. What continuing resolutions don't provide is any chance for Congress to debate the most fundamental question of all: Why are we spending this money?

Congress spends first and asks question later when it should instead be spending only after figuring out what goals it's trying to achieve. Meanwhile, Congress' constant stop-and-go budgeting creates havoc for government agencies, and the citizens who depend on them.

What if you had to decide whether to buy a new car or go on vacation without having any idea what your salary was or even how much money you had? That would be almost impossible. But this is the situation facing federal agencies that often don't know how much money they're getting or when it's coming. This uncertainty has severe consequences. Congress' failure to pass a timely budget in early 2011 led to the Federal Aviation Administration delaying hiring of new air traffic controllers as well as the National Institutes of Health postponing grants for cutting-edge medical research.

The reform solution: If Congress can't make spending and budget decisions on time, they shouldn't get paid on time either. Every government fiscal year begins October 1. If the congressional appropriations (spending) process is not completed by that date, congressional pay ceases as of October 1, and isn't restored until appropriations are completed. This is the only No Labels solution that requires a new law, which could be passed in 2012, and would take effect when the new Congress is seated in 2013.


Non-defense discretionary spending has expanded 21 percent faster than inflation over the past THREE years. Returning to 2008 levels still leaves typical programs nearly one-third larger than they were in 2000 (adjusted for inflation). Freezing this spending at 2008 levels through 2015 and then capping subsequent growth at the inflation rate would save more than $2 TRILLION in the first decade and even more thereafter.

Many of these savings are achieved by reducing the size of the federal bureaucracy, overhauling the federal pay system, permanently eliminating many earmarked accounts, and consolidating duplicate functions. Yet not all programs are affected equally. For example, Coast Guard and other important security spending, such as subsidies to public broadcasting, AmeriCorps, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, is left to the private sector. 

Today's reward for reading this far:

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