Posted on May 14, 2010In 1921, the Congress first started thinking about doing a budget. It passed the Budget and Accounting Act legislation that first directed the President to submit a budget. It also created the General Accounting Office (which a couple of years ago changed its name to the General Accountability Office), an agency tasked with making certain that federal dollars were spent wisely.
When in the 1970’s, Richard Nixon decided he had the power to impound funds that he didn’t want to spend (his version of the line-item veto), Congress reacted by passing the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, legislation that created the Congressional Budget Office and created the modern budget process, if you can call it a process.
Under this law that passed more than three decades ago, the Congress is supposed to pass a budget resolution, to outline how it is going to spend money and raise revenue for the next half decade or so. The budget resolution is not a law because it is not signed by the President, but the purpose of it is law-like. The budget is not just a set of suggestions. Sure it can be waived in emergencies, but they have to be big ones (like war, pestilence or natural disasters, that kind of thing).
If there ever was a need to pass a budget, it is this year.
The American people already have a sneaking suspicion that we, as a country, are going broke. It would give the voters some comfort if the Congress would say, yes, we are going to make some hard choices. We are going to make some difficult decisions. We are going to tear up the credit cards and put ourselves on the road to fiscal responsibility.
So, what does the Democratically-controlled Congress decide to do? They decided that because this is an election –year, the choices are just too difficult to contemplate for their most vulnerable members. So, they are going to not do a budget this year, the first time since 1974 that the House has not passed a budget out of its chamber.
How is that for profiles in courage?
Granted, the choices that have to be made are very difficult. We have to cut spending. Taxes are going to have to go up. And none of this is going to be very popular with the people.
But not making those choices is a decision itself. It is a decision that will lead this country to the same point that is now facing Greece.
Do we really want to turn out like Greece?
It may be time to do something revolutionary, something beyond just throwing the bums out. It might be time to have a Second Constitutional Convention with the sole purpose of adding a balanced budget to the Constitution.
Congress won’t balance the budget unless the people make them do it.
It might be time to make them do it.