The Culture of Spending: Why Congress Lives beyond Our Means

The Culture of Spending: Why Congress Lives beyond Our Means

The Culture of Spending: Why Congress Lives beyond Our Means

The Culture of Spending: Why Congress Lives beyond Our Means

Excerpt

Why is it so difficult to control government spending? In the United States, there is broad agreement that our high level of federal spending is damaging, yet no one appears able to do anything about it. The problem seems so far beyond human control that legislators have passed a law, the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction act, to accomplish automatically what they are unable to do as a conscious act of will. As one senator put it, this spending-restraint measure was Congress's way of scrawling in lipstick on the motel room mirror, "Stop me before I spend again."

This book attempts to explain this puzzling addiction and to account for the seemingly relentless pressure for higher federal spending. It focuses on Congress because Congress has been the mainstay of the spending system. The past decade of political experience in the United States underscores the point. In 1981, an administration came into office dedicated to reducing the size of government. After eight years of battling, that goal remained unaccomplished. It can be said that the Reagan administration did not try hard enough, that it compromised many of its objectives and failed to advocate the necessary deep cuts that genuine spending reduction would have required. That charge has merit, and is documented in this book--but it overlooks a larger truth: It was Congress that set the practical, political limits on the spending cuts the Reagan administration dared to seek.

The recent struggles have provoked renewed interest in understanding the causes of the prospending attitude in Congress. Much . . .

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