The congressional show known as the budget process is taking place on the national stage.
The show is a little late this year because of the inauguration of a new president. Normally, the president must submit his proposed budget for the next fiscal year (which begins on October 1) no later than the first Monday in February. However, a new president gets extra time to prepare his first budget. That is why Donald Trump did not submit his budget to Congress until May 23. But since the president’s budget is only a request, Congress is not required to adopt any of it.
According to the Congressional Research Service’s report, “Introduction to the Federal Budget Process,”
The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 establishes the congressional budget process as the means by which Congress coordinates the various budget-related actions (such as the consideration of appropriations and revenue measures) taken by it during the course of the year. The process is centered around an annual concurrent resolution on the budget that sets aggregate budget policies and functional priorities for at least the next five fiscal years. Because a concurrent resolution is not a law — it cannot be signed or vetoed by the President — the budget resolution does not have statutory effect; no money can be raised or spent pursuant to it.
The main purpose of the budget resolution is to establish the framework within which Congress considers separate revenue, spending, and other budget-related legislation. Revenue and spending amounts set in the budget resolution establish the basis for the enforcement of congressional budget policies through points of order. The budget resolution also initiates the reconciliation process for conforming existing revenue and spending laws to congressional budget policies.
The House Budget Committee has issued its fiscal year 2018 concurrent resolution on the budget (H.Con.Res.71), a report to accompany it, and its budget. As in previous years, the budget document has its own name. This time it is “Building a Better America: A Plan for Fiscal Responsibility.” A more accurate name would be “Building a Republican America,” since this fiscally irresponsible budget is a blueprint for a Republican welfare/warfare state.
House Republicans claim that their budget
- balances the budget within 10 years by cutting spending, reforming government, and growing the economy.
- puts faith not in government but in people.
- is one of sustainability, smaller government, stronger national security, and greater freedom for individuals.
- encourages reforms to government programs and takes serious steps to reduce government spending to unleash the potential of the American economy.
- promotes economic growth by limiting the federal government’s involvement in the economy and expanding freedom and opportunity for American entrepreneurs.
- promotes the elimination of burdensome regulations, and reforms government agencies and programs that have impeded economic growth.
- paves the way for broad-based tax reform that will make our tax code more competitive internationally and expand opportunities for job creation and business formation in the United States.
- is the fulfillment of their promises to the American people to reduce the size and scope of the federal government, reform mandatory spending programs, and put our country on a sound fiscal path.
Unfortunately, it will do none of those things except to build a Republican America. Here are seven reasons why.
- Republicans now control both houses of Congress and the presidency. They can pass whatever budget they want, spend whatever they want, and cut whatever they want. But what happened the last time the Republicans were in charge? Republicans had absolute control of the government for more than four years during the presidency of George W. Bush. During that time they almost doubled the federal budget and the national debt, created the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), greatly increased spending on education and passed the No Child Left Behind Act, expanded Medicare, passed the draconian USA PATRIOT Act, began letting the NSA spy on all Americans, and started two senseless wars.
- Republicans blame Obama for the state of the union. “Building a Better America” says that “the Obama Administration presided over both a massive increase in federal spending and debt, and dismal economic GDP growth over the last seven years that averaged just 2 percent.” Yet, it is the Republicans who controlled the House for six of the eight years of Obama’s presidency. And for the last two years, Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress. It looks as though the Obama administration presided over a Republican increase in spending and debt.
- Republicans say they will balance the budget in ten years. Why not now? Their budget for fiscal year 2018 has a built-in $472 billion deficit. And they project a deficit of $496 billion for fiscal year 2019. How can Republicans say that “Building a Better America” budget is a plan for fiscal responsibility when it is not even balanced? Doesn’t “Building a Better America” say that “continuing to finance government’s out-of-control spending only places a larger burden on future generations of Americans and abdicates Congress’s moral responsibility as a governing body”? Don’t the Republicans say that they “seek to reaffirm the fundamental principle that all Americans abide by on a monthly basis: spend within our means”? The new Republican budget covers only fiscal year 2018. All the projections for future years are utterly meaningless. No future Congress is obligated to follow anything in the fiscal 2018 budget.
- Republicans are proposing that the federal government spend a whopping $4.024 trillion in fiscal year 2018. That is obscene. Not only is that amount higher than Obama’s last proposed budget, Republicans want to increase spending every year up to $5.345 trillion in fiscal year 2027. And since they project a deficit every year until 2027, the national debt, which currently stands at just under $20 trillion, will likewise increase every year. Yet, “Building a Better America” states, “For too long, the federal government’s excessive spending has put future generations at risk. Massive tax increases or crippling austerity measures are the natural conclusion of our current rate of spending, and future generations will pay the price. Failure to take swift and decisive action is not only inexcusable, it is immoral.” If Republicans were really concerned about excessive government spending, they would at least propose a smaller budget than last year.
- Republicans want to increase spending on the warfare state. They blame the previous administration for “significant cuts to military spending” and for “hollowing out” the military. But if those things are true, then shouldn’t Republicans be blamed for at least the last two years, since it is Congress that ultimately determines how much will be spent on defense every year and Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress for that time period? The U.S. military spends almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined — spending that is used for offense instead of defense. For that reason, the military budget needs to be cut, not increased. Too bad Obama didn’t make significant cuts to military spending. If Obama hollowed out the military it is because he continued and escalated the senseless wars begun by George W. Bush. Yet Republicans say that it is necessary to make “strategic investments to rebuild and expand our military power and strengthen our homeland security” to the tune of “$621.5 billion in base funding for the national defense budget, $75 billion to fight the global war on terrorism, and significant resources for border and homeland security.” Nonsense.
- Republicans want to continue to fund the welfare state. That should come as no surprise, since Republicans are welfare statists just like Democrats. Their budget “recommends policies to strengthen and improve the quality of anti-poverty programs based on certain principles.” Republicans want to “maintain the fiscal security of these programs to ensure they can continue to serve those most in need.” Their budget “takes the first step to preventing across-the-board benefit reductions to the Social Security program.” The bottom line is that the better America envisioned by Republicans still contains food stamps, WIC, TANF, Pell Grants, job-training programs, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, housing assistance, and farm programs.
- Republicans don’t propose the elimination of any significant department, agency, corporation, board, program, administration, foundation, bureau, authority, or commission of the federal government. Their budget “assumes Congress repeals Obamacare and replaces it with a patient-centered, free-market health care system.” But as we have seen several times this year, Republicans have been unable to do that. Their budget also “assumes reduced federal subsidies for Amtrak’s operations.” Wow! impressive. “Building a Republican America” correctly says that “the larger government is, the less freedom and opportunity individuals and businesses have” and “the larger government grows, the smaller the opportunity for American families and small businesses to grow and thrive.” Too bad the new Republican budget does nothing to shrink the size and scope of government.
“Building a Better America” will build a Republican America, but not a better America.