Commenting on the federal budget the other day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said “the cupboard is bare. There’s no more cuts to make.”
The possibility for a government shutdown should policymakers fail to reach an agreement on spending by October 1 is the topic du jour in Washington. The last time a government shutdown occurred over a budget impasse was fiscal year 1996 when Democratic President Bill Clinton went to the mat with a Republican-controlled Congress. There were actually two shutdowns that year, with the second one lasting a record 21 days. Prior to that, brief shutdowns were a fairly regular occurrence.
As policymakers begin fighting over this year’s appropriations, the Congressional Budget Office has released a long-term projection that puts today’s budget battles in broader context. The federal government is in the most unique and dangerous fiscal situation that it has ever been in during peacetime.
A Gallup poll released last week revealed good news: Americans’ confidence in the federal government’s ability to handle foreign and domestic problems has reached an all-time low. In both areas, a minority of those polled said that they had either a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Uncle Sam.
Farm bills traditionally contain both farm subsidies and food subsidies (e.g., food stamps). Unable to pass a traditional farm bill passed this year, the House Republican leadership separated the two components. The House passed a stand-alone farm subsidy bill in the summer and now it’s set to vote on a bill that would trim the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a.k.a., food stamps) by $39 billion over ten years.
On September 14, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention got a little rowdy. Joining a group of elite militiamen who staged a party in honor of George Washington, the 55 men, delegates and militiamen together, drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 50 bottles of “old stock,” and ample amounts of other spirits. The final bill included an additional fee for “breakage.”
I was struck by a photo and story in the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun earlier this week. A group of high-powered politicians had assembled at the Port of Baltimore for a ceremony to roll out a federal grant for seaport investment. The group included the vice president of the United States, the two U.S. senators from Maryland, the Secretary of Transportation, and numerous other important political leaders.
This is about as pathetic as it gets when it comes to congressional budget politics.
The current budget showdown in Washington has become so painful to watch that, were it a movie script, even M. Night Shyamalan would pass it up.
Bloomberg has a series out on the federal government’s crop insurance program, which cost taxpayers $14 billion in 2012. The articles, which reveal a textbook example of politicians and special interests teaming up to pilfer taxpayers, should be read in their entirety.