The death of Baseline Budgeting?
I didn’t put it in my “14 Fixes for our Messed up Country” list, since I thought it was long enough, but one of the things I really think needs to be reformed is the utterly insane institution of “baseline budgeting,” aka “Washington accounting,” aka “DC moonbattery.”
Apparently, though, according to CNS News (no, that’s not a typo) baseline budgeting might be on the ropes:
The House approved a potentially sweeping budget reform Friday that would force federal agencies to justify an annual increase, as opposed to getting an automatic increase under current budget law.
“What we are about to do could be the most responsible financial thing this Congress has done, this House has done in the whole last year,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said before the vote. “It could be $1.4 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years and all we’re doing is just stopping the automatic increase.”
The Baseline Reform Act of 2012 passed the House by a near party-line vote of 235-177. However, the bill will likely have a difficult time passing the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Under current federal budget law, the amount of money a federal agency will automatically get for the next year is based on the current year’s amount, plus inflation, which is the “baseline” for the next budget year.
Read that last paragraph again, and then ask yourself: where, outside of the federal government, does that sort of accounting work? Do you ever give yourself a budget equal to last year plus inflation automatically? I don’t even think Warren Buffet, as wealthy as he is, does that, nor Mitt Romney. Probably not even Trump, but who really knows what the Donald does.
It gets to the core of the government problem, what sets it apart from the free market. In the market, you have to prove that you need the funding, by creating a great product or service and selling it to the consumers. You don’t automatically get money, you have to earn it. Conversely, the government simply appropriates money and resources, whether or not its providing something that the people want, and it certainly as heck isn’t doing it in an efficient fashion.
A solution for replacing baseline budgeting comes from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), called “priority-based budgeting.” In their State Budget Reform Toolkit they outline a system where legislators must decide what are the core functions of government, rather than simply going by last year’s expenditures and then adding inflation and policy changes. Instead, it forces legislators to actually debate what government is supposed to be doing, and thus is an “output-based” budgeting system, rather than the current morass, which is simply “input-based.”
Although ALEC focuses on state governments, I believe that priority-based budgeting should be adopted at the federal level as well. Too many in Washington and around the country have really no idea what the government is supposed to be about. Unless we force Congress to actually have that debate, to actually discuss what the purpose of government is, we’re not going to get anywhere.
Likely, this will not be the end of baseline budgeting. Such a bill would have to pass the Senate, and since it is still being run by Democrats who have failed to pass a budget in almost three years, I have no doubt they will block it from being implemented. But maybe not this year, maybe next year, if we can get some true fiscal conservatives elected (perhaps if Obama retains the presidency and Republicans score the Senate, there may be progress, although there again I doubt they’ll have enough votes for the Constitutionally required two-thirds override if Obama vetoes.)
But take heart. That this is being discussed is a positive development in the cause of limited government.