Monday, March 14, 2011

Battle of the Budget

For those hoping for some closure on the fiscal year 2011 budget, don’t hold your breath. The House’s year-long spending bill was voted down by the Senate last week, and the Senate’s alternative also failed to garner enough support to pass.

In place of a budget, House Republicans have introduced yet another short-term spending bill that chips away at government spending to the tune of two billion dollars per week. As long as the House, Senate, and President can find a way to keep the government operating, none can be accused of dropping the ball and causing a government shutdown.

But how much longer can this last? The current fiscal year doesn’t end until Sept. 30, and the budget battles have all but consumed the limited bandwidth of Congress. Granted, budgeting is an important way for the nation to express priorities, but this means that many other substantive issues go unaddressed.

The politics of budgeting are especially important in the face of a down economy and major deficits, but there is also the matter of public policy. Instead of reducing government programs to budgetary line items, we must carefully consider the history and impact of a program before making the decision to cut.

Both the White House and the House Republican majority have instituted measures to enhance the transparency of government decision making. Neither side has provided a thorough rationale for cuts. Like many Americans, I recognize the need to limit government spending, but cuts must be done in the most thoughtful and democratic way possible. I know we can do better.

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