Today the Senate passed another continuing budget resolution, this one designed to fund the government through April 8. Government spending would have been prevented from growing any further* on Friday if this measure had not been passed.
* Every time you read the phrase “government shutdown” in a news report, replace it with “government spending would be prevented from growing any further,” because that is a far more honest and accurate description.
Some Republicans have staggered away from the Continuing Resolutions Saloon with expressions of self-loathing on their faces, swearing they’ll never take another drink of Old Shutdown again. They always come back.
Some say the little spending cuts they squeeze out of each resolution are a good enough excuse for Republicans to keep hanging around this bar, drinking their paychecks and flirting with the smoking hot but unattainable Balanced Budget Amendment showing off her legs at a corner table. When it’s closing time, and they have to stagger back to their districts, the taxpayers can run along behind them and scoop up the spending-cut pocket change they drop on the street.
One Republican who had the courage to lay off the sauce this time was Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. “Today’s vote, first of all, should remind us of how we got here. Why are we funding government in two or three week increments?” he asked in a press release, after voting against the latest CR. “It’s because Democrats, when they ran the House, the Senate and the White House, didn’t pass a budget… But more importantly, this is a terrible way to run government. We are facing some serious issues in America today, particularly the fact that we are borrowing $4 billion a day to keep the lights on and particularly the fact that we owe $14 trillion and growing. It’s time to face those issues in a serious way. The time for waiting is over. The time for games has passed.”
Rubio hits upon one of the most troubling aspects of this absurd budgeting process. It is a terrible way to run government. In fact, it’s actually a kind of fraud. The government is supposed to provide order and structure. It is the agency of law in a just and reasoned society. The shameful failure of the Pelosi Congress to produce a budget is an example of lawlessness – a failure of fiscal duty no different from various accounting frauds that would put corporate CEOs behind bars.
A budget is the government’s way of explaining to its masters in the electorate how it will perform the duties they have assigned to it, using the resources they have seen fit to provide. The current process of limitless deficits and make-it-up-as-we-go spending resolutions makes an utter mockery of this republican ideal. Instead, Congress says it will do whatever it pleases, grab as much cash as it thinks it can extract from us, and let the unpaid bills pile up in vaults around the world.
The power and scope of Big Government are sold to us as a way to systematically address social problems that cannot be left to the discretion of private citizens. We can’t be trusted to manage our health care, decide what kind of light bulbs to buy, or make responsible use of our natural resources. And yet, no entity in the private sector demonstrates the financial irresponsibility of this greedy government. If any of them did, they would be prosecuted into oblivion.
Government through continuing resolution is a fraud. Politicians who claim the wisdom to manage our lives, with piles of law carved into stone, are instead scribbling their judgments on scratch paper with pencils. It’s time to hear exactly what they intend to do, and exactly how much it’s going to cost us, so we can pass judgment on them.