The Essentials of Spending Control
This article and discussion points in not meant to be an authoritative point of view. The author makes no claim about his or his staff’s expertise on budgetary controls. However, it is absolutely essential that when new research is discovered or even more emphasis is put toward budgetary controls; consequently, we feel that the topic is one that warrants our attention — literally from the stalwarts of education at every level to some type of program for every American.
This research is based on a hearing that was presented by the Congressional Budget Office and most of the information we can attribute to Heritage Foundation’s expert, Patrick Louis Knudsen and is precisely the kind of activity that should be going on much more broadly and regularly in Congress: budget oversight.
Year after year, Congresses create new programs and expand government activities, but rarely go back to review how those things are working. Consequently, programs that are ineffective, inefficient, bloated, obsolete, or just plain unnecessary gain immortality—while Congress looks the other way. This hearing is a refreshing departure from that pattern, and some of my recommendations today aim at making it a model for other committees—to make a routine of the process you are pursuing today, as one step toward breaking the culture of spending. We believe this goes to the accountability of every congressional member.
First, however, it is necessary to put this discussion in context. While no serious efforts toward reining in government spending should ever be dismissed, the items under consideration are—to be candid—the barest minimum of what Congress should be considering.
Fiscal year 2011 was the third consecutive year with a deficit exceeding $1 trillion. Debt held by the public is roughly three-fourths the size of the entire economy. It cannot be said often enough that three large entitlement programs—Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—are increasingly dominating both the budget and the economy.
We believe that the process of scouring the budget, line by line, searching for programs that can be struck out or reduced should be standard operating procedure for every administration and every Congress—something like what former Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle called “weeding the garden.” But that is just a fraction of what needs to be done to restore the fiscal health of the federal government.
Second, Congress and the President should not ignore tools already available to control and reduce spending. If a President truly wants to cut spending, he or she has a powerful instrument called a veto. It is a broadsword, to be sure, and it can disrupt government activities; but that is exactly why it can be effective. Meanwhile, Congress should apply strong, enforceable caps on all spending—not just discretionary. There is nothing like a firm limit on spending to get rid of waste and force choices among priorities.
There is one thing that is for certain: Unless the current administration as well as the political blundering between the U.S. Supreme Court and the presidency stop, look forward, and have the insight to see America in a bankrupt future, then something needs to be done regarding the current spending on ObamaCare.