Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Threat of Jail Would End U.S. Budget Gimmicks"

It is obviously good news, if true, that Republicans and Democrats may be approaching compromise in the negotiations over raising the federal debt ceiling.

Yet one has to wonder whether the so-called Gang of Six’s proposed $3.7 trillion in long-term debt reductions will ever come to pass, or is even an accurate, well-vetted figure. Or is it, as usual, the federal government plans to thrill us with numbers so artificial that they might land a company president in prison?

The central problem with the federal budgeting process -- and with the way it is reported by a complaisant media -- is its thorough lack of transparency. When officials announce, with great drama, that they have developed a “plan” to reduce the “deficit,” they are usually sincere, but rarely accurate.

The plan is almost always a piece of paper -- the Gang of Six’s struggles to fill five pages -- without any means of enforcement, based on guesses, often poor ones, about the future. Meanwhile, the budgetary process continues to chug along, impenetrable to the mind of man.

Remember the Budget Enforcement Act, adopted in 1990 to limit discretionary spending, while ensuring that Congress adopted no new tax cuts or entitlements without future revenues to pay for them? You don’t? Of course not: Congress gutted the thing once it began to get in the way of distributing benefits without regard to cost. (more)