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Congress Fails Their Constitutional Budget Responsibility

04/07/2020

Before the coronavirus substantially shut down America, Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, warned, “The national debt is an issue that lawmakers are doing their best to ignore these days…” MacGuineas continued, “The annual deficit is the worst it has ever been when the economy was this strong. We are on track to borrow another $14 trillion over the next decade, and already, interest payments are the fastest-growing part of the budget.”

MacGuineas correctly claimed that the high debt will very likely slow economic growth in the future.

After the coronavirus crisis struck, America there was bipartisan support in Congress to spend trillions of dollars. Which of course adds greatly to MacGuineas’ concern about what the national debt will have on our future. Wrongfully, Congress could care less about my grandchildren’s future. Republicans and Democrats are totally focused on this year’s elections for president, Senate and House of Representatives, and they are buying votes by giving money to their favorite special interest groups. Both parties are openly buying votes.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided the virus crisis was a good time to give $35 million to the Kennedy Center, which got whittled down to only $25 million. A few days after appropriating the money, the Center laid off the National Symphony Orchestra.

A gift to the Kennedy Center needs tradeoffs to other Member of Congress. Thus a $150 million in grants was authorized to the National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment of the Humanities. Grants are gifts that are not to be repaid. I wonder how many members of Congress can tell their constituents that they “Brought home the bacon.” Then there is sunscreen and a Treatment of Sunscreen Innovation Act as part of the legislation. What does that have to do with a deadly virus? Well, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky has many people employed in the sunscreen industry, and it is an election year for Senator McConnell.

The Postal Service, well known for mismanagement and incompetence, always needs money and gets a $10 million loan. Of course, this begs the question, “Do we really need the Postal Service?” For sure, we don’t need all the functions that now exist.

Then Congress appropriated $25 million to themselves and claim it goes to telework programs related to the coronavirus. However, nothing in the legislation requires Congress to be accountable.

These dishonorable actions are minor infractions in comparison to an on-going major omission by Congress. Our Constitution, as part of the Founders' intent to balance power against power, gave Congress the power of the purse. Only Congress has the power to authorize spending. Congress has consistently failed to pass a budget. No competent business can survive and excel without a budget and abiding by the budget. Maya MacGuinaes and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget have been excellent watchdogs on the budget and for many years have warned against fiscal mismanagement to little positive results. In a time of real crisis because of the coronavirus and the economic collapse, it is time for Congress to become real adults and do their job – start by doing their constitutional duty to create a budget and abide by the budget.

Here is an idea: To assure that future Congresses actually make a budget every year, pass a law that when Congress fails to pass a budget that ever Member of Congress will forfeit their salary for missing the deadline until a budget is approved.

Congress has harmfully failed America.