Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

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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

Reader comments

Thu, Feb 24, 2011 Tom Ward Berwyn, IL Retired

With the federal government so deeply in debt, how can we possibly continue to spend hundreds of billions and trillions of dollars on the Greater Middle East Region ( Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, etc. ) ? Isn't this one of the prime reasons we are so deeply in debt ?

Will someone please explain to me how we can continue this incredible spending on the Greater Middle East Region ? Thank you

Thu, Feb 24, 2011 Jack

It's a simple, hugely ignored fact: the complaining public has grown accustomed to services provided by local, state and federal employees. And, although they're not sharp enough to realize it, that same public went ahead and elected a bunch of folks to reduce cutting budgets. They could not possibly have been aware of which services would be cut or how far-reaching a lack of services can be nor how many people would be affected. I'm guessing there will be more than a few who regret elected some of these people.

The other, apparently un-articulated fact is that employees occupy the number one expense in the budget of any government unit. So, administrators and politicians need to be careful with the knife so as not to sever a major artery. Currently, I feel they're all a bunch of irresponsible louts (not thugs....yet. But in Wisconsin, that day is coming).

For myself, if someone would have published a breakdown of expenses and had written a coherent, un-biased article about what these newly elected people were trying to do, I would have a better understanding of the problem and might even be willing to understand the process instead of seeing it as an attack on my life's decisions to serve this country. Like everything else to do with politicians....not enough information was provided before important issues were forced on people.

As the budget arbitration continues, I sincerely hope that vital services to the public get cut so badly that our freedom of the press (AP, Times, USA Today, US News, etc.) gets an up-close-and- personal taste of what anarchy really is. All this has been media-driven from the git-go anyway and I hope these budget cuts bite 'em all in the rear. It's time for a reality check right here in River City.

Thu, Feb 24, 2011

Ezekial East Coast is missing the fact that every business has their greater and lesser performers, of which Ezekial is the latter by his own admission.

The need to cut waste should not spur such anti-civil servant activities as looking for reasons to downgrade employees wages.

Instead we could easily cut real waste removing contractors from gvernment payrolls unless there was a bona fide A76 study that proves contracting out is less expensive for a given task without compromising the task or national security. We have contractors on this base here that were hired without determining their specific taskings or PDs before they were hired. It turns out they were given contracts for work that they cannot perform. Many collect government pensions while working in the same areas from which they retired. Finally, they have to interface with government people to complete the tasks anyway. This often increases the cost to the public by 35% to 100% more than it would have cost to hire government employees. This is a waste of tax dollars.

Yes, and let's end both those useless wars which conumes the lion's share of the budget. They largely serve to spread Terorism rather than control it.

Thu, Feb 24, 2011 Annoyed by the rhetoric

Of course the politician are going to continue this game; it's all about finger-pointing rather than constructive budget decision making. Why do you think we are "paying" for two wars in Iraq (mercifully ending) and Afghanistan (stupidly continued) with money we have yet to raise in taxes. We are not even close to realistically dealing with the federal deficit.

Thu, Feb 24, 2011 badwisky Alexandria

The house majority party is cutting those programs they are opposed to i.e. PBS, Planned parenthood etc. etc.

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