Friday, February 05, 2010

The President's Budget

Folks have passed around the budget graphic from the New York Times showing how the 2011 budget is allocated. The graphic is interactive so you can compare to 2010. But the crucial button, I feel, is the "Hide Mandatory Spending" button. This shows what parts of the budget Obama actually had control over: military spending and the bottom right corner, made up of administration, veterans' benefits, transportation, and other (relatively) small pieces of the budget.

The rest of the budget is controlled by-you guessed it-Congress. Laws passed in the last five, ten, twenty years through both liberal and conservative legislatures. Now, I am not a huge Obama fan, but honestly, he has very little direct control over how the money is spent (except, it seems, in the area of military spending). His role as chief executive is to influence policy, not write laws. So how could he really make change?

Well, the first thing he could do would be to take a page from Dave's book: audit the legislature. There is this awesome movie starring Kevin Kline as an ordinary guy who is a doppelganger for the president. When the president goes into a coma, Dave is called on to impersonate the commander in chief while his aides figure out what to do. But Dave finds that he can use the opportunity to make some big changes. At one point he sits down with his friend who happens to be an accountant and they try to balance the budget. The accountant says, "if I ran my business like this, I'd be out of business!" How true.

Dave proceeds to identify several laws and spending bills that are nonsensical, wasteful, and just plan idiotic. In one of the pivotal scenes of the movie, he asks lawmakers to repeal them so that they can keep a homeless shelter. This is the kind of work a president focused on balancing the budget could do. Determine where the waste is and ask Congress to eliminate it. Don't just propose a freeze on spending, hold lawmakers accountable to where funds are currently going and evaluate the programs that are wasting taxpayer dollars. Threaten the lawmakers with exposure and transparency-force them to own up to their votes, showing the public what kind of job they are doing up there on Capitol Hill and at the Federal Reserve.

Wait, isn't that what Ron Paul is asking for?

No comments: