Susanne Trimbath @ New Geography:
Forget about a fiscal cliff or the threat of sequestrations. Bernanke’s use of the term “cliff” in 2012 is based on the erroneous analogy that fiscal policy had been moving along some level road for a period of time and was just now approaching an “end” or “falling-off” point. The reality is that federal spending has been rising rapidly since the federal government 1) absorbed the cost of repairing the damage done by the terrorist attacks of 2001, 2) decided to support wars on multiple fronts in the Middle East, 3) bailed out the Wall Street Banks, and 4) failed to pass a budget but 5) decided to continue spending as if nothing had happened. So called “sequestration” – which in this case basically means reducing spending and increasing revenue – would simply be a return to reality, coming down to earth, getting our feet back under us. Unfortunately, we the people appear co-dependents in this addiction.
This year started with Congress succeeding at its favorite athletic event: kicking the can down the road. The January inauguration of the President and installation of their new members provided the excuse. The fact remains that Congress has not passed a real federal budget since 1997 (“the first balanced budget in a generation”.) An “omnibus spending bill” was passed in April of 2009 but that is not technically a budget.
Congressional inaction has left the federal government running on extensions (“Continuing Resolutions”) of a budget that was passed when Bill Gates was still CEO of Microsoft, NASA landed the first spacecraft on Mars, and Google was working out of a garage. The last federal budget is from the time before iPods and iPads, before SPAM e-mail exceeded legitimate email, before Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – and before the global financial crisis that sent the world into recession and US federal spending into the stratosphere.
In lieu of doing anything meaningful, three senators – Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), all in office since 2011 – took the time to write and introduce an amendment to the 1974 Budget Act that would require a macroeconomic analysis of the impact of new legislation. This monumental act of denial was such a complete waste of time that GovTrack.us gave it only a 9% chance of getting out of committee and a 1% chance of being enacted. In fact, from 2011 to 2013, while we were paying these three senators and hundreds more people in Congress, only 12% of the bills introduced in the Senate made it out of committee (11% in the House) and only 14% of those were enacted (24% in the House)! Having passed just a few more than 200 bills, the 112th Congress will go down in history as even less productive than President Harry Truman’s “Do-Nothing Congress” (the 80th, 1947-1948) which nevertheless managed to get 906 bills enacted.
In the 2012 election, openings were available for 1 new president, 33 new senators and 435 new representatives. Instead, Americans re-elected the same President, 19 of the same senators (58%) and 351 of the same representatives (81%). As a result, the 113th congress looks a lot like the 112th.