Fiscal Cliff

Government Gridlock – Costing our Country its Future

Anyone with two eyes, two ears, and an IQ higher than a turnip knows that our federal government is having budget difficulties.  It is because of the Great Recession.  It is because of lost revenues due to a high unemployment rate.  It is because of rampant spending on the part of our elected officials.   You would think that with all the press given to the “fiscal cliff” and to the negative effects of reaching that cliff, our federal representatives would be feverishly working to balance our budget to avoid our great nation from falling off that cliff.  So are they?

Here is a simplified synopis of how the budget planning process is supposed to work.

Since the passage of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Senate and the House are supposed to pass budget resolutions in the spring.  These budget resolutions set the framework for taxation, spending and other fiscal considerations for the coming year.  They also lay out general plans for the next four years.  If the budget resolutions differ, the Chambers are to hammer out a compromise.

Budget resolutions are policy plans.  They are not appropriations bills, or spending bills, which actually allocate monies for specific purposes.

If a budget resolution does not pass, the federal government does not go dark.  In the absence of a budget resolution, appropriations bills will continue to allocate money.   (This last sentence is the weakness in our system, which allows a bad situation to get worse!)

This all brings us back to the question: What are our federal representatives doing about balancing our budget?  And when was the last time that a budget was approved?…………tick………………tick…………………tick…………  Time is up!  April 29, 2009.

In 2012, not one single annual appropriations bill has was brought to the Senate floor!  The U.S. House passed seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills that year and sent them to the Senate for consideration, according to the status report by Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee.  The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved 11 of the 12 spending bills and sent them to the full Senate for consideration.

So what happened?  It actually sounds as if some of our federally elected officials were indeed working at attempting to provide a budget.  Read on……………

None of the bills approved by the House or the Senate Appropriations Committee were ever brought to the Senate floor for a vote.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who decides which bills will be considered, told reporters on July 10, 2012, that no spending bills were likely to be approved in 2012 due to an ongoing dispute with House Republicans over how much the federal government should spend.  No fooling?

True to his word, Reid so far has not brought any of the annual spending bills to the floor since that statement in July, necessitating the short-term budget measure to keep the government running for another six months.  This also means that there are not any four-year plans provided for future budget planning.  There is no shell of a federal budget, much less a framework for future budgets.

Everyone who knew we did not have a budget for almost four years, raise your hands.  Yup, that’s what I thought.  I had no idea either.  I haven’t heard much about this in the media.

I know I have higher aspirations for the people who are elected to oversee the welfare of our country.  And what do they do?  They are playing patty-cake politics at our country’s expense.  It would be fair to assume that this group, regardless of political party, are flying by the seats of their pants (or skirts) and that they really do not have an original thought or plan to get our country out of this financial mess.   One person, a man from Nevada who won his last election by 40,000 votes, has decided that because those mean, vicious Republicans want to cut spending, he will circumvent the debate and compromise process by not introducing budget bills on the Senate floor.  Why, exactly, are these people in Washington?

Don’t get me wrong.  This is not just a Democratic party issue.  There have been other times in our nation’s history when the Republicans did not pass a budget when they were in the majority.  But I must admit, the Democrats have been overachievers in not getting a budget approved since 2009.   We have had three years without a budget, and we have an excellent chance of extending the record.

The irony of all of this, is that our country is still on the brink of the financial cliff.  The fiscal cliff was going to hit on January 1 of this year.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I expected the gutless wonders we have elected to Congress to postpone making any decisions.  They did just that, and now the new cliff date is March 27, 2013.  I suspect that when that date approaches, they will again delay by passing temporary appropriations bills to keep the country running.  All of this without any permanent solutions for what are becoming huge permanent problems.  Social security, Medicaid, Medicare, defense, unemployment; all of these issues need to be addressed, as this country cannot afford to continue on its present path.  Let me be perfectly clear.  We need to reduce spending!

Suffice it to say that if the US military operated as inefficiently, ineptly and with as little direction as our present Congress, we would still be fighting the Civil War.

So what has been accomplished thus far in facing the realities of the pending fiscal cliff?  For one thing, the POTUS (President of the United States)  asked for and received higher income taxes on higher income wage earners.  You certainly heard his continuous promotion of class envy by using the word “rich” like it was a dirty four letter word during the presidential debates.  Congress approved this increase at the end of last year, mostly hitting families with a combined household income of over $450K per year.  In their infinite, but vanishing, wisdom, Congress also complicated the IRS tax codes by making federal income tax a four-tier process, with a number of caveats at each level.  So much for trying to simplify the tax codes.  The Republicans relented  and approved these increased tax measures on the assumption that the other end of the shovel would be spending cuts.  But now, after getting the increases, the POTUS and the Democrats are balking at any spending cuts.  And of the cuts that they may actually approve, 50% come from the Defense Budget, which is about 22% of our federal budget.   At the same time, the Democrats are trying to preserve all the social welfare programs, which consume well over half of our federal budget.   Stay tuned as to how this will all flesh out.

Last night, Grandma and I attended an investment seminar with a guest speaker from Washington, D.C.  He offered his insight into our inability to compromise and to do what is best for the country.  His theory?  He says that the United States political picture is currently divided into thirds: 1/3 Republicans, 1/3 Democrats, and 1/3 Independents.  The Independents are in the middle, expecting compromise.  The other two parties have gone respectively to the extreme left and extreme right to hold onto the political base that got them elected.  The result of all of this is that the two extremes are our federal representatives.  Gridlock ensues as both sides are too far apart to consider compromise.  Like Nero, they are fiddling in Washington, while the country burns.  I blame both sides.  We need leadership more than ever from people who are incapable or unwilling to lead.   Most people do not want to face the reality that we may all have to sacrifice some, to protect the whole.  In this case, the “whole” is the United States of America.

Originally, I was going to do a post on welfare.  During my research on the welfare programs in the US, I ran across this information as to how our government if functioning in Washington.  The verdict?  It is not functioning for the benefit of the country!  It is working overtime to gain reelection.   I am both appalled and irritated by how our country is being managed.  I must be naive, because I expect more from supposedly smart leaders.  Much of these problems would not exist if we had term limits.  It is obvious that too many selfish, egotistical people feel comfortable “nesting” in Washington.

The next post will be on welfare programs in the US.  These programs are at the heart of possible budget cuts.

Have you talked or written to your Congressman lately?  If the silent majority (the common sense people) do not make themselves known, we become abetters by allowing our government to continue on its present course.

PS:  On Saturday, March 23, the Senate passed a budget for the first time in about four years with a vote of 50-49.  This budget will not be implimented, as it is to diverse from the budget passed by the House.  Stay tuned for more gridlock and ineptness.

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