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Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

Blog archive

Budget, budget, budget …

Yup, it almost seems as though every news item coming out of Washington over the last several weeks – maybe months – has led right back to the federal budget.

Then there is question of which one you are talking about: The president’s budget, the House Republicans’ budget, the fiscal 2010 budget, the fiscal 2011 budget. Then there are all those proposed amendments to the proposed budget. And the soon-to-expire 2010 Continuing Resolution. And so on.

Part of the reason that the federal budget is so high on the media’s news budget is that the new crop of budget hawks in Congress has been taking an ax to the programs in that budget. The main reason for that (ostensibly, some might say) is growing federal debt – and its effect on economic recovery.

But not everyone agrees on exactly what that effect is. For example, some argue that if the federal government spends more to stimulate the economy, then recovery will happen more quickly (even though budget deficits add to the federal debt). Others say that this simply digs the hole deeper, and just makes things worse.

Congress is in recess this week, so the flow of budget stories may subside for a bit. But we’re using the break to go over a short Congressional Research Service report on how this debt thing works. It’s called “Reaching the Debt Limit: Background and Potential Effects on Government Operations.”

Since it was written to elucidate the matter in brief fashion for members of Congress (or more likely, members of their staffs), it’s probably as close to a clear explanation as we can expect to see. E.g.:

“The debt held by the public represents the total net amount borrowed from the public to cover the federal government’s accumulated budget deficits. Annual budget deficits increase the debt held by the public by requiring the federal government to borrow additional funds to fulfill its commitments.”

See, you’re smarter already.

If you’re curious, you can find it here.

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Feb 23, 2011 at 4:02 PM


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