2013-01-02

Briefly, On Budgets And Deals

I don't really want to weigh in on the politics of Washington's failure to cut a half-decent budget deal, or whether the current deal is really the one we need or want, etc. Go read Huffington Post or Breitbart or whatever. Get your fill of that kind of thing elsewhere.

But I do want to make one simple point about all of this: Isn't it strange that the entire US federal government grinds to a halt if the annual budget cannot be worked out?

The fact that the US budget has become a single, gargantuan legislative act that keeps running federal undertakings as diverse as appeals courts and drone strikes, subsidies for low-income housing and the delivery of postal mail, the daily business of foreign consulates and once-a-year appropriations for the funding of public broadcasting... Doesn't this all seem to imply that we have tied far too much to the federal budget?
There are aspects of the federal government's business that require advanced degrees and years of experience to understand. That strikes me as being highly un-democratic: If ordinary people can't even understand the issues, shouldn't we be alarmed that the government is in control of them?

Similarly, if the business of the government all gets funded by a single act of Congress, we shouldn't ever be surprised that it is so difficult to come to a deal. We are talking about every facet of the federal government.

But then, isn't it time to ask the question? If the budget is so complicated that a deal is nearly impossible, isn't it time to reduce the number of things the federal government spends money on?