Almost every child has had the experience of asking his parents for a new toy of exorbitant cost, and hearing that the family could not afford it. And when he pushed for the desired object anyway, his parents talked about how they did not have a “money tree in the back yard”.
Perhaps the folks in Washington had different parents. Parents who actually did have one of those proverbial trees in their back yards.
There have been numerous articles and discussions about the different programs included in the giant spending bill signed by the President last week.
What no one is talking about is a little paragraph at the beginning of the bill. It is labeled “Emergency Designations”. It states:
(a) In General- Each amount in this Act is designated as an emergency requirement and necessary to meet emergency needs pursuant to section 204(a) of S. Con. Res. 21 (110th Congress) and section 301(b)(2) of S. Con. Res. 70 (110th Congress), the concurrent resolutions on the budget for fiscal years 2008 and 2009.
(b) Pay-as-You-Go- All applicable provisions in this Act are designated as an emergency for purposes of pay-as-you-go principles.
Pay-as-You-Go principles were adopted by Congress some years ago. They stated that if Congress wanted to spend taxpayer money for anything, they would have to cut something else in the budget to free up the money to pay for it. In other words, Congress would have to live within its own budget.
It was designed to keep Congress from just spending any amount it wanted, and then arbitrarily raising our taxes to cover their spending binges.
When that principle was adopted, a provision was included that exempted emergencies. The debate at the time about what constituted an emergency centered around natural disasters and war. It was felt that, like families, sometimes an extraordinary and unforeseen circumstance might arise which would cause an unplanned expenditure, and Congress needed the ability to deal with such a situation.
Unfortunately, Congress did not specifically define what could be considered an emergency.
This month, they proved that this lack of specificity was a terrible mistake. By declaring that every program in this entire bill would be considered an emergency, they more than doubled the federal budget. They do not have to figure out how to find one single dollar from existing funds to pay for any of the programs in this bill. And they did it without one word of debate on how they were going to meet that doubled bill.
It is the equivalent of any working person arbitrarily doubling their own salary and then announcing that to his employer.
It is amazing that every family in America knows that they have to live within their means, and struggles to do so, while the supposedly learned members of the administration and the Congress have absolutely no concept of this most basic principle of fiscal responsibility.
Or maybe they really do have that money tree hidden somewhere in Washington.