Monday, the Wall Street Journal had an article, written by R. Glenn Hubbard.  In it, he posed the following: “The question to ask about the president’s eye-popping budget, … is whether it prepares the country for its future—or shackles it to past decisions that our leaders would rather not confront.” I find it a very good question and one worthy of an answer….or many answers.

Since it is my belief that the budget (and the large increase to our National Debt) is using funds mostly to perpetuate past political decisions, I decided to look at the bill just sent to the President for signature which will raise the deficit limit to $14,294,000,000,000 (that’s $14 trillion plus for us digitally challenged individuals).  If you would like to look at it, too, you can see a pdf of it here.

Raising the Deficit Ceiling

The act is known as the STATUTORY PAY-AS-YOU-GO ACT OF 2010.  It states that the limitation on the national debt is now $14 Trillion.  It says that in the first 50 words of the document.  It then goes on for another 9500 words to amend and update the Pay-As-You-Go Act.  That is done to ensure that we all know that any new legislation must have its costs covered by (new and improved) taxation/fees so as not to increase the National Debt, beyond the new, higher ceiling.

The bill exempts over 145 different Federal Government programs from any cuts (should Congress ever enact something like a real spending cut).  Those programs that Congress has seen fit to protect from the mean budget ax include the following:

Basically all Social Security and Veterans Programs;

Compensation of the President;

Fannie Mae;

Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund;

Payments to widows and heirs of deceased Members of Congress;

Salaries of Article III Judges;

United Mine Workers of America Benefit Plan;

Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Trust Fund;

Foreign National Employees Separation Pay;

Special Benefits, Federal Employees’ Compensation Act:

Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Fund;

Low-Rent Public Housing—Loans and Other Expenses;

Child Care Entitlement to States;

Family Support Programs;  etc.; etc.; etc.; etc.; etc.

From reading the Act, it would appear that maintaining the status quo in Washington is more important than limiting our National Debt.  By changing the debt limit every time Congress wants to spend more money (that it doesn’t have), Congress is acknowledging that there is no “ceiling” to the National Debt.  So, my take is that the politicians in Washington are working at avoiding the problems created by poor past decisions.  It is politically easier to spend the money and keep things going as they are.  They are shackling us to those past decisions.  They are passing the buck, or, the 14 Trillion bucks as the case may be.

What then should Congress be doing if the goal really is to prepare the country for its future?  That will be the subject of a new series of posts.  It will be patterned after  a series written in the final 30 days of the past presidential campaign in 2008, 30 Issues – 30 Days.  The new series will tackle what Congress should be doing to prepare our country for the future, not tie it to political decisions of the past.  It will be titled something like  “40 weeks – 40 ideas for Congress.”  My hope is that it will spark some debate and discussion of the direction Congress needs to go.  It will be a lead-up to the election this Fall.   Then we will have the opportunity to pick 435 Members of Congress and over 30 Senators who we believe will take us in the direction of a better future, or tie us to lawed decisions of the past.

Here is an example of one issue and a few questions we might pose regarding that issue:  As noted above, one exemption from any possible cuts to the Federal Budget in the Pay As You Go Act was Child Care Entitlement to States.  Does Congress actually have any responsibility for State provided Child Care?  Should Congress be making law that requires States to provide certain levels of child care?  Should Congress commit funds to pay for these mandates?

Please watch this space and come back often with your comments.  If you have some hot issues that you want on the list, please leave them here in the form of a comment.