Historically, federal budgets have been about taking a lot of numbers that already exist — i.e., the baseline — and adding to them a bunch of new numbers that reflect the administration’s or Congress’s wish list.
This is put into a large book that ignores entitlements and interests costs — roughly 60 percent of federal spending.
Of course to some degree this is ancient history. Even this marginal bit of fiscal management has been ignored in recent years with the Senate failing to even take up, much less pass, a budget for the federal government.
It is a bit ironic that members of Congress are so sanctimonious about a $5-billion loss at JP-Morgan, while not even passing a budget for a $3-trillion enterprise called the federal government, for which they have responsibility.
To put it another way, today there is no such animal as a “federal budget.”
There is no need to send to Congress a traditional budget with line after line of numbers that have virtually no meaningful effect on — or relevance to — the vast majority of federal spending. The primary drivers of our federal fiscal problems have been ignored by a Congress that has grown comfortable with its nonfeasance.
A better approach for the president, assuming he intends to corral the out-of-control deficits and debt of our nation, would be to use the budget to challenge Congress to act responsibly.
The president has, with this vehicle called the “budget submission,” the opportunity to lay down a course that drives policy changes and will produce real action that moves us toward solvency as a national government.