The Right Coast

June 25, 2004
 
Restraining Spending
By Mike Rappaport

With federal spending going wild, something needs to be done. Stephen Moore describes a promising proposal entitled the Family Budget Protection Act, which includes the following features:

1) It restores the power of the president to line-item veto wasteful and parochial spending projects, which have multiplied in number and in cost in recent years.
2) It eliminates so called "baseline budgeting" which allows federal programs to grow each year on automatic pilot.
3) It creates a sunset provision for federal programs, so they are not put on a perpetual life support system.
4) It requires that if Congress and the president do not agree on a budget on time and on budget, that all federal programs will be funded at the previous year's level, minus one percent.
5) For the first time ever, it creates enforceable overall spending limits on entitlement programs, which have been ravaging the federal budget over the past two decades.
The fourth feature was most interesting to me. Several months ago, John McGinnis and I published an op ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that a supermajority rule for spending should be enacted. To deal with the possible holdouts and government shutdowns that such a rule might create, we proposed that a majority (rather than a supermajority) should be permitted to enact spending of no more than 90 percent of the previous year's amount. To the best of our knowledge, a provision of this type had not previously been advocated or discussed.

The Family Budget Protection Act uses a similar provision to deal with with holdouts and government shutdowns, requiring that if "Congress and the president do not agree on a budget on time and on budget, that all federal programs will be funded at the previous year's level, minus one percent." I don't know for sure whether this provision was adapted from our proposal, but it very well might have been. If so, it is gratifying to see one's work having some small real world effect. Of course, if the Family Budget Protection Act and the provision are actually enacted, it will be far more gratifying.