Back to Fixing the Federal Budget Process: While Politicians Work to Secure Agreement on Fiscal Policy, Public Managers Can Help Restore Confidence in Government by Making Their Budget Decisions Disciplined and Transparent

By Redburn, Steve; Moore, Demian | The Public Manager, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Back to Fixing the Federal Budget Process: While Politicians Work to Secure Agreement on Fiscal Policy, Public Managers Can Help Restore Confidence in Government by Making Their Budget Decisions Disciplined and Transparent


Redburn, Steve, Moore, Demian, The Public Manager


Budget experts have watched the federal government's budget process fail over the last few years as the policy choices required to put the budget on a sustainable path grew more challenging.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The darkening long-term outlook, masked by investors' willingness so far to lend to the U.S. government at low rates, could at any time be greatly complicated by rising interest rates, or by unpredictable but inevitable future economic or other emergencies demanding higher spending. The publicly held federal debt is racing past 70 percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) and is projected to grow even more rapidly in coming decades, driven by the long-forecast retirement of the baby boomers and continuously rising healthcare costs--two of the biggest factors in what fiscal commission co-chair Erskine Bowles calls, "the most predictable economic crisis in U.S. history."

Last fall, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (popularly, the Supercommittee) created by the Budget Control Act of 2011, tested the possibility that our fiscal challenges could be met by bypassing the regular process. Its collapse just before Thanksgiving pointed everyone back to the drawing board. We now must reconsider whether it is possible to reform the regular budget process to help support those leaders prepared to make the tough choices needed to put the federal budget on a sustainable course.

Many have concluded that the federal government's governing institutions--and in particular the way they go about budgeting--are not up to the task. The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform issued a report in December 2010, Getting Back in the Black (http://budgetreform.org/document/getting-back-black), calling on Congress and the president to pass a new Sustainable Debt Act that would establish a new budgeting regime. The commission is made up of former directors of the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget, former budget committee chairs, and other distinguished and seasoned federal leaders. Their approach to reform was realistic and practical. It also was bold and consistent both with the extent to which the process is broken and the scale of the fiscal challenges ahead.

Others recognize the depth and political difficulty of the policy changes required to align spending and revenues over future decades and are looking at ways to repair the process. Old ideas such as a balanced budget amendment (BBA) to the Constitution or "biennial budgeting" received fresh attention. Some experts endorsed devices to bypass the broken budget process. Some favored a base closings commission model that delegated detailed negotiations over the budget to a special body and provided fast-track congressional procedures to facilitate enactment of whatever plan a majority of that group could agree on.

Fiscal Rules and Discipline

The basis for budget process reforms and for progress in stabilizing the debt must be a new national agreement on a rule or target for fiscal policy. Sitting down to prepare a federal budget without reference to a fiscal rule or target is like setting sail without a compass. Countries facing similar challenges--including Australia and Sweden--found it helpful to enact a fiscal rule as the first step in righting the fiscal ship.

In the United States, the traditional consensus that budgets should be balanced has evaporated.

Therefore, the first task of American leaders is to help restore a national norm of fiscal responsibility. Otherwise, any newly enacted rule will quickly succumb to the siren call of urgent demands for government to do more than it is prepared to pay for.

A balanced budget requirement is an example of a fiscal rule, but not a practical one in the immediate future--both because there is nothing close to a consensus on some version of a BBA and because balance is now far out of reach. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Back to Fixing the Federal Budget Process: While Politicians Work to Secure Agreement on Fiscal Policy, Public Managers Can Help Restore Confidence in Government by Making Their Budget Decisions Disciplined and Transparent
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.