WILFORD: A Government Funded A Week At A Time

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Andrew Wilford Contributor
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As Congress bears down on yet another shutdown, Congress is haggling out the details of yet another bill to fund the federal government — for a single week. Unfortunately, in our current climate of rampant overspending, Congress appears determined to play the now-familiar game of political brinkmanship rather than pursue badly-needed budget reforms.

Unfortunately, there exists no political will whatsoever to make the hard choices required to rein in overspending. That’s especially true because the main culprits of our budget quandary are some of the most politically untouchable — primarily entitlements such as Social Security and the major federal healthcare programs. 

Even as the annual deficit reverts from the stunning highs of $3 trillion during the pandemic to the more “normal” $1 trillion per year, it is still growing at an alarming rate. The national debt blew by $31 trillion this year and deficits are projected to continue to increase over time, not shrink. Spending has surged from $2 trillion two decades ago to nearly three times that this year.

And even as the tsunami grows in strength, politicians continue to talk past each other on this issue. Democrats alternate between dismissing the debt problem as conservative fear-mongering and blaming red herrings like the 2017 tax reform law. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress often know the problem is overspending, but have refused to change tactics even as the problem gets worse — and have even acted to undo what progress has been made when spending restrictions become inconvenient. 

The federal government desperately needs to reform the budget process itself. Congress has found it far too easy to use gimmicks and math tricks to get the Congressional Budget Office — the nonpartisan budget scorekeeper — to score costly bills as “paid for.” Taxpayers have grown tired of watching eleventh-hour negotiations to see if there will be a shutdown this year. All the while, the credibility of the United States as a debtor continues to erode, creating problems down the line.

Taxpayers should no longer accept the status quo as the way things have to be. The National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) has laid out “Fiscal New Year’s Resolutions” that Congress should follow, including a budget process that integrates debt-to-GDP targets, streamlined legislative tracks for legislation that reduces the deficit, scorekeeping reforms, taking into account debt interest, and establishing rainy-day funds, among other changes that a Congress seeking to get its fiscal house in order should implement.

And while a comprehensive effort to address out-of-control spending will necessitate tough decisions, even the low-hanging fruit has yet to be picked. NTUF and the United States Public Interest Group, organizations on opposing sides of the ideological spectrum, have periodically released a “Common Ground” report of mutually agreeable deficit reductions — amounting to nearly $800 billion in savings in 2020

The fiscal crisis on the horizon is a massive one, but public attention has not been commensurate with the scale of the danger. Taxpayers need to demand change from their elected representatives, not sit back and watch another round of the annual budgetary political theater unfold. 


Andrew Wilford is a senior policy analyst with the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to tax and fiscal policy research and education at all levels of government.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.