Members of the House Budget Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), introduced a package of ten legislative reforms aimed at “Repairing the Broken Budget Process” today. Ryan issued a statement to introduce the reforms:
The federal budget process is broken. Washington stumbles from budget crisis to budget crisis, with little to no oversight of how government spends hardworking taxpayers’ money. The incentives currently favor those who want to spend more, and the result is a crushing burden of debt that is hurting economic growth today and threatening economic prosperity tomorrow.
I’m pleased to join a team of reformers at the House Budget Committee committed to repair the broken budget process. My colleagues at the Committee have put forward 10 proposals designed to strengthen spending controls, enhance oversight, and increase transparency. These reforms mark an important first step to getting our arms around the problem, but there is no substitute for political will in solving our structural budget problems.
The House Budget Committee will keep advancing solutions that deal directly with the drivers of the debt, help get our economy back on track, and ensure future generations a shot at the American Dream.
There’s a lot packed into this initiative – you can read the full details here. Much of it is geared toward ensuring Congress actually produces a budget, in a timely and transparent manner, which would be a major improvement over the current bizarre state of affairs. (952 days without a budget and counting. Thanks, Senate Democrats!)
Ryan himself sponsored the Expedited Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act, which puts more power in the hands of the President – a valid concern no matter who occupies the office – but would also cut down on the budget-busting practice of stuffing extraneous garbage into a noble-sounding bill and daring opponents to express their hatred of the bill’s nominal beneficiaries by voting against it. When millions of dollars for the study of platypus flatulence are stuffed into the Widows and Orphans Relief Act of 2011, Congress and the President either swallow it whole, or cast an easily-demonized vote against widows and orphans.
Halfway down the list of reforms, you’ll come across The Baseline Reform Act, which “reforms the budget ‘baseline’ to remove automatic inflation increases in discretionary accounts, and to require a comparison to the previous year’s spending levels.” Now that would cause some serious aftershocks, especially when paired with Item #7, “The Review Every Dollar Act,” which “requires periodic sunset reviews and reauthorization of all federal programs,” and cracks down on various methods of hiding new spending by shuffling money around. It also prevents the Administration from dropping expensive regulatory mandates on Congress and telling them to have fun figuring out how to pay for them. Big Government comes off autopilot at last!
There are also budgetary choke chains for the Postal Service and Government Sponsored Enterprises (i.e. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) and a measure to “cap total spending over the long term to reduce the burden of government to no more than 20 percent of the economy by gradually reducing spending.” 20% is still way too high, but it’s a huge improvement over the current deranged spending binge of 25%. Although… “the burden of government” can be taken to include a lot more than just dollars spent by Washington.
There’s a Government Shutdown Prevention Act that just might spare us from any further shutdown dramas, because it triggers an automatic 1% across-the-board cut in all discretionary spending in the event a budget doesn’t pass the House and Senate by the end of the fiscal year. Another 1% cut hits every three months until a budget is signed.
The final item in the package, The Pro-Growth Budgeting Act, would put an end to the silly “static analysis” methods used by the Congressional Budget Office to pretend that tax increases and regulation don’t hurt the economy, while growth-oriented tax cuts don’t help. As the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) explained: “The Pro-Growth Budgeting Act requires the Congressional Budget Office to provide members with a more dynamic assessment of how proposed legislation would impact economic considerations like GDP, jobs, and business investment. Having a clearer understanding of the macroeconomic consequences of proposed legislation is fundamental to assessing the real world impact the actions of Congress have on the economy at large, not just Washington’s bottom line.”
All in all, it’s a great package of reforms. It’s remarkable how so many simple ideas, which would strike most of us as common sense, could have such a radical effect on the way business is conducted in Washington. The program enjoys bipartisan support, prominently including Super Committee crash survivor Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
Many observers (including Paul Ryan, if memory serves correctly) have noted that if a business handled its budget the way Washington does, the executives would end up in jail. These ten bills would represent excellent progress toward changing that.