Monday, October 4, 1999

Week of 10/04/1999

The Most Dangerous Time Of The Year
Freedom Is Threatened When Budget Deadline Breaks

- by David Matthews 2

"If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy." - Thomas Jefferson

They say that Christmas comes but once a year.. That is, unless you’re a member of Congress.

For our elected officials sitting on Capitol Hill like Gods of Mount Legislation, Christmas comes several times of the year.

Every year, the Congress and the White House have a very ugly task of figuring out the government’s budget before the next fiscal year begins on October 1st. They preach and preen about fiscal responsibility and damn everyone else’s special programs while singing the virtues of their own pork.

But what they don’t tell you is what happens up there on Mount Legislation as that October deadline edges closer and closer.

It’s easy to have happen. In order to keep the federal government going, Congress and the White House must pass thirteen separate spending bills. Each of these bills cover a certain separate division of the government because the federal government is SO huge, and SO bloated, and that they couldn’t even TRY to get it all in one bill. The committee debates alone would take up a year!

Now folks, we would all like to believe that our elected officials wouldn’t break that October 1st deadline, but let’s get brutally honest here.. they LOVE that deadline! Not only do they love that deadline, but they love it when it’s time to BREAK that deadline!

The reason why is simple - because that is the perfect time for Congress to wheel and deal! It’s Christmas time for them!

Suppose you’re one of those self-serving Gods of Mount Legislation. Now, because of some political posturing and some very creative manipulation of the legislative docket, the budget isn’t approved. Your support is needed to pass one of those appropriations bills so that part of the government can get their necessary funding. Common sense would say if you don’t have a problem with that bill, you should simply support it.

However, let’s suppose you’re a member of the House of Representatives.. you have to think about re-election, even on an off-year! You want to look like you’re doing SOMETHING for your district, right? So why not fund a bridge? Or create a new highway? Or fund the start of a new federal office building? They need your vote to pass this appropriations bill, right? So all they have to do is write in that little spending amendment in, and they have your vote!

One down.. at least three hundred to go before taking it to the Senate!

Of course, the best Christmas goodie for members of Congress is that emergency one-size-fits-all omnibus spending bill! Congress and the White House love that bill because the can hide all sorts of goodies in there and the people don’t know about it. Whatever pork barrel spending program you want funded, you can sneak it into the omnibus bill, and guaranteed it will be passed and signed.

Now folks, if there is ANY reason why government is so big and so bloated, this is one of them. Budget deadlines mean more pork than a sausage factory!

Of course, the politicians don’t worry too much about the deadline. After all, it’s not THEIR money at stake! Matter of fact, while Congress and the Clinton White House were claiming they don’t have time to pass all of the appropriations bills by the deadline, they still had plenty of time to vote on and sign into law pay raises for themselves, or at least to whom ever would be working after the next term.

And for the rest of the federal workers, whose pay is dependant on those appropriations bills? Well Congress and the White House are ever quick to approve of stopgap spending bills which tap into the magical, mythical budget surplus to keep the money flowing. But even that can’t last for long.

The alternative? You remember that one.. shutting down the federal government. It was tried in 1995 when the newly-controlled GOP Congress defied the will of President Clinton and let the federal government go bust. It didn’t create the anarchy politicians told us would happen, and if anything it galvanized the anti-government sentiment in many people.

This way of operating is also one of the biggest threats to freedom in America. Remember what was said earlier.. any law someone wants passed can easily be done by slipping it into that omnibus spending bill. No special hearings, no prolonged debates to decide whether or not the bill is constitutional. No special rallies need in support or opposition of the bill. It doesn’t even matter if it’s an unpopular idea, because if it’s something the politicians want, they’ll stick it in and it’ll become law because it’s attached to a bill that IS needed, namely the federal budget.

Proof comes from last year’s failed deadline.. and last year’s omnibus bill, which included an anti-American law that censors Internet content. The bill was loudly opposed as is, but like the deceptive vermin they are, the Gods of Mount Legislation quickly and quietly inserted the bill into the omnibus spending bill, where they knew it would be passed and signed into law. That law is currently being challenged in the courts, but it would not have even been made into law if it wasn’t put into the omnibus spending bill.

This kind of abuse of power is not new, because it has been allowed to quietly continue ever since America was formed. However, its abuse is more profound when done under conditions like the budget impasse.

As legislators, our elected officials are sorely negligent when they let the federal budget deadlines pass without doing their sworn duty. But as long as they are allowed to stick in whatever amendment they want, irregardless of the topic of the bill, and as long as they get paid irregardless of their performance, this kind of abuse will continue. And that is why the budget deadline is the most dangerous time of the year for freedom in America.

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