10 February 2008

Balanced Budget Bill Rewrite

You want a balanced US federal budget? You want it on time? I have a suggestion, modified in response to Blainn's comment. Suppose we, the people of the United States, all demanded that Congress enact and the President sign the following legislation:

Prior to the beginning of each fiscal year, Congress and the President shall complete all non-emergency appropriations for the fiscal year. Every member of Congress, their staffs, the President, the Vice President and the President's, Vice President's and the White House staff shall forfeit his or her salary for each day that any non-emergency appropriation is delayed past the start of the fiscal year. At the end of each fiscal year, the Congressional Budget Office shall report to the people whether the federal budget for fiscal year just past is in deficit or in surplus. If the federal budget for the fiscal year just past is in deficit, then for the fiscal year going forward these same officials and their staffs shall forfeit a fraction of their salary equal to the federal budget deficit divided by the total federal budget for the fiscal year just past. If the federal budget is in surplus, then for the fiscal year foing forward these same officials and their staffs shall receive a fractional bonus to their salary equal to the federal budget surplus divided by the total federal budget for the fiscal year just past.

In other words, let the people who control the federal budget bear personal consequences for mismanaging it, and reap personal rewards for managing it well. (Why do I pick on the staffs? They are the ones who actually do all the work of getting the appropriations bills calculated, negotiated, recalculated, written and signed. And they are the ones who will have the most leverage with the Congress and President, who normally become rich enough to go without their salaries for a long time.) No need for artificial spending limits or borrowing caps, or limits on earmarks. Just make it personal and set them free to do the right thing.


blainn said...

There you go. Much more effective. And, thereby, much less likely to happen.

Lyn said...

I appreciate the frustration in this article, but I disagree with the plan. It assumes that people will act reasonably because their own interests are at stake. Most people don't act reasonably. Most people live above their means. They spend too much and invest too little - or none at all. And the waste that is inherent in the way they finance their lifestyles - it's pitiful - with so many people using consumer credit cards with interest rates over 10%. But at least the Congress and their staffs accurately represent the average American - it spends too much and doesn't plan effectively for the future.

Scooper said...

Blainn, thanks!

I must admit that I don't know what would actually happen if my proposal were enacted. But then, Congress almost always passes laws without knowing in effect whether and how well they will achieve their intended purposes. I figure it can't hurt for us to experiment on them for a change.