President Obama continues to be irresponsible on budgetary duties. The President of the United States has a duty, annually, to submit a budget to congress that has some measure of fiscal sanity which can then be debated in congress. Ultimately, a committee composed of members of the House and the Senate meet, in a process called “conference”, and arrive at a compromise of expenditures that can be approved by a majority of all parties. But that’s not what happened.
Instead, Obama submitted a Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget of $3.7 trillion dollars that almost tripled the size of the federal budget from the previous year and would have increased the federal debt by over $7 trillion dollars. Needless to say, the President’s Budget was voted down. Indeed the senate didn't just vote down Obama's budget, but instead delivered a stunning vote of no confidence 0-97. Never before has a president been so totally rebuked by a senate controlled by his own party faithful.
Americans might expect that the president would be embarrassed, but it seems that this sort of behavior has come to define President Obama. In fact, during 30 months in office, Obama has never produced a budget that could be signed into law. Instead, Americans have seen Continuing Resolutionafter Continuing Resolution passed by congress.
Congress’ responsibilities are actually quite limited—make laws, levy taxes and annually approve a federal budget. That’s it. Everything else that congress does is supposedly in support of those three tasks—all the congressional hearings, grandstanding and finger-pointing have no real purpose unless it provides congress with the information needed to do their job.
However, for the past several years, in the area of the federal budget, congress hasn’t really done its job approving a federal budget. The budgets submitted by President Obama have been so polarizing, so fiscally impractical, and so filled with pork that these budgets have been impossible for congress to take seriously, let alone create consensus.
Unfortunately, congress has not chosen to confront Obama on his abdication of duty. Instead, congress has skated from CR to CR to Omnibusbudget for the past few years—a strategy which may help congress keep the government operational, but which gives the Executive Branch most of the detail power in decision-making and resource allocation.
Congress has gotten sloppy and complacent—they have learned that they don’t have to do their job to get to keep their jobs, so year after year, each September, the debate rages in Washington, and in the media, about the latest Continuing Resolution (CR). CR has become the band-aid that congress applies to the federal budget, allowing them to keep the doors of government open, while delaying the hard decision choices that must be made on federal spending.
But the ongoing CR battles could just be another Democrat strategy that contributes to the seemingly endless stalling on addressing the need for entitlement reform. Consider—in the original FY12 budget that President Obama submitted to congress, over 2 trillion dollars was allocated for entitlements and approximately 1 trillion for federal government discretionary spending. Anyone with half a brain can see that if entitlements are 2/3 of the federal budget, then our country has a problem because it can’t keep spending at that rate.
But that’s a hard slog for many member of congress because the decision to attack entitlements is bound to be unpopular with some constituents. Republicans, in presenting the Paul Ryan (R-WI) budget cut proposalwere bold, took up the challenge and decided to do the right thing of addressing the ever escalating, unsustainable costs of entitlements.
But the current CR stalls that progress. Section 111 of the FY12 Continuing Resolution, states “For entitlements…activities shall be continued at the rate to maintain program levels under current law, under the authority and conditions provided in the applicable appropriations Act for fiscal year 2011, to be continued through the date specified in section 106(3).”
Thus, the CR has helped Democrats stall entitlement reform through November 18 of this year. But, since congress has developed a history of cascading CRs, the signs seem to point to more entitlement reform delays. So, Democrats manage to delay much need reform one more day and dig the hole for future generations just a bit deeper.