by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The current federal budget process is turning 50 next year. Unfortunately, it hasn’t aged well. In fact, if we judge these 1974 budget rules by how often Congress has followed them, they have been a complete failure. In only four of the 49 years since the budget process has been in place has Congress passed a budget on time through the regular order. In 17 of these 49 years, Congress didn’t even bother to pass a budget at all.
Now, in all fairness to the 1974 budget process, the fault lies strictly with legislators who have for decades refused to follow the rules. These legislators are the ones who, Congress after Congress after Congress, have broken the rules with impunity. This record seems even more shocking when considering that passing a budget is a core responsibility of Congress. But maybe the worst part of this mess is that no one seems to care, save for the small community of budget scholars who have been repeating for years that the budget process is broken. I think it’s more accurate to say that what’s broken is Congress.
Speaking of the small community of budget scholars trying to draw attention to our fiscal problem, Cato Institute’s Romina Boccia has been writing about a well-designed commission, modeled after the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), that could help with the political inability to reform Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I don’t need to remind the Corner’s readers that these three programs are the drivers of our future debt. Addressing their insolvency is key to putting the U.S. on a sustainable fiscal path. …
… The beauty of this proposal over many others is that it focuses on the most difficult obstacle faced by anyone who wants to reform these three programs: the political-economy problem.