Source: Congressional Budget Office
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The budget is long and complicated. People do not read the budget due to its long length. This causes the government to spend more than is needed to fund the government. The budget has become a political weapon used by both sides of the aisle. Politicizing has complicated the budget process. The process has become so complex that the government has passed the federal budget on time only twice in the last 40 years.
Source: Congressional Budget Office
The process is so convoluted that the government has to pass continuing resolutions to prevent a government shutdown.
Funding delays have a negative impact on government agencies. Defense Secretary James Mattis stated that Congress not being timely with funding has led to a shortage of ammunition and grounding air crafts due to lack of maintenance.
The current focus on short term planning to pass the budget is increasing the budget deficit.
Government agencies work with the White House Office of Management and Budget for a year before Congress sees the proposed budget. Once the proposed budget gets to Congress it can be completely disregarded. This wastes the time of the White House and the agencies.
The budget is divided into multiple different bills. Tracking all of the bills in order to read the full text is a difficult task. The lack of transparency with the budget makes it so people do not read the text. Members of congress are voting on a budget that they are not fully aware what it is comprised of.
Two-thirds of government spending is not reviewed on a yearly basis. $1 trillion of tax expenditures is not being reviewed frequently. A large portion of the budget is not part of the annual budget process. These aspects of the budget just get passed on from one year to the next without any scrutiny.
In the 1990s Sweden reformed their budget
Using caps on spending has allowed Sweden to have a $44 billion budget surplus in 2018.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP): the value of goods and services produced in a country for a year
Mandatory Spending: money for long term programs such as Social Security and unemployment
Discretionary Spending: money for annual programs like education
Spending Cap: the maximum amount of money that can be used
Continuing Resolutions: short term legislation to keep the government opened
Appropriation Bill: spending bill
Tax Expenditure: government spending using the tax code
Tax Code: long government document that details all of the tax laws
Budget Deficit: when spending is greater than income
Pete V. Domenici and Alice M. Rivlin - Bipartisan Policy Center (July 17, 2015)https://bipartisanpolicy.org/library/proposal-for-improving-the-congressional-budget-process/
A 29 page proposal on how to streamline the budget process.
United States Government Accountability Office - Government Accountability Office (September 1, 2005)https://www.gao.gov/assets/80/76911.pdf#page=121
A flowchart on the budget process.
Tim Shaw and Sandy Davis - Bipartisan Policy Center (March 8, 2018)https://bipartisanpolicy.org/blog/federal-budget-process-reform-key-issues-proposed-fixes/
A brief updated version of the Bipartisan Policy Center's 2015 budget proposal.
Terri Moon Cronk - United States Department of Defense (February 6, 2018)https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1433784/mattis-urges-congress-to-provide-budget-predictability-for-dod/
Secretary Mattis describing the negative impact the current budget process has on the military.
Steve Bell, Tim Shaw and Jack Rametta - Bipartisan Policy Center (October 26, 2017)https://bipartisanpolicy.org/blog/when-will-federal-deficits-hit-1-trillion-next/
Projections on the level of the federal deficit.
Government Offices of Sweden - Govenment Offices of Sweden (September 20, 2017)https://www.government.se/articles/2017/09/the-2018-budget-in-five-minutes/
Overview of the Swedish 2018 budget.
Congressional Budget Office - Congressional Budget Office (March 5, 2018)https://www.cbo.gov/publication/53624
Infographic on the 2017 federal budget.
President Barack Obama - Government Publishing Office (February 9, 2016)https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=BUDGET&browsePath=Fiscal+Year+2017&isCollapsed=false&leafLevelBrowse=false&isDocumentResults=true&ycord=920
2,753 page budget proposal by President Barack Obama for Fiscal Year 2017
Current spending caps are scheduled to end in 2022 and are limited in what they cover. Instead of letting the caps it would benefit the government to extend them. Caps should also be expanded to all aspects of the budget. Caps are useful tool to limit spending, and decrease the budget deficit.
The three main mandatory programs are Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.These programs comprise 80% of mandatory spending for the next 10 years. Mandatory spending is increasing at a higher rate than the economy is growing. Making specific long term targets to fund these programs allows Congress to budget more efficiently.
Tax expenditures are not reviewed on a regular basis. This allows large parts of the budget to not be considered in each part of the budget process.
A way to solve this problem is creating a tax base to compare with the actual tax expenditures.
If spending on any part of the budget exceeds the baseline the spending request would automatically be reviewed.
Focusing on short term spending has caused an increase in the debt to GDP ratio. The US is focusing on passing a yearly budget instead of having a sustainable long term budget.
After the Great Recession in 2008, the debt to GDP ratio increased from 39% to 70%.
Uncertainty on the US willingness to pay back their debt increases when the GDP to debt ratio increases. This leads to higher interest rates on the debt.
Streamlining the budget process allows congress to be able to focus more on other issues. One of two outcomes will happen.
Increased efficiencies to the budgeting system would lead to cost savings for tax payers.
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