With the debris from the current financial storm still swirling, Congress must not overlook the other massive spending bill speeding its way through Congress. As a result of Congress’s stubborn refusal to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to fund the government (not passing a single appropriations bill this session) they must now pass a continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown. Unfortunately, instead of crafting a well thought out clean bill, Congress predictably larded it up with billions of dollars in false “emergency” spending, and believe it or not, even included a multi-billion dollar bailout of privately owned automotive companies.
The peculiar logic behind this massive spending hike is that if Congress can afford to spend massive amounts to rescue the economy, then the government can surely afford a mere $25 billion to bailout the auto-industry, and $24 billion in disaster aid. However, the reality is the opposite. It is because Congress has been spending so much money on other priorities that it can not afford additional spending hikes.
The bill raises several concerns:
• Members of Congress have likely not read the bill. The current language for the CR was only recently released. With the continuing turmoil in the financial markets requiring close Congressional attention it is highly unlikely members of Congress have had time to properly scrutinize the bill. The CR funds the entire federal government. The least Congress should do is take the time to read the bill.
• The CR doles out a $25 billion loan to bail out the auto industry. The companies involved have repeatedly proven to be inefficient and highly flawed. Other automotive companies across the country have flourishing plants relying on the free market alone. Continuing to prop up failing companies under the logic that one bailout necessitates another is a quick recipe for disaster.
• The CR also includes billions in bogus “emergency” spending. Although many of these programs such as $2.8 billion in “emergency spending” for low-income heating assistance, pull the emotional vote, the fact remains the best way to help families with high energy costs is to lower to price of energy.
• The bill also provides $24 billion in undefined disaster assistance, much of which will be funneled through the ineffective Community Development Block Grant Program. Such a large disaster aid package deserves significantly more scrutiny – and possible spending offsets – than has been provided so far.
The One Victory
Fortunately the CR isn’t all bad. After months of pressure by conservative leaders to allow the congressional moratorium banning offshore drilling to lapse, the CR finally makes that possible. Beginning October 1st energy companies will be permitted to begin the slow process of obtaining leases to drill for additional oil off American shores. One can only hope the next Congress does not overturn this accomplishment.
Although many Americans may celebrate the lapse of the drilling moratorium, then shift their focus to the financial markets, one must not forget this bill also spends billions of taxpayer dollars. Despite other responsibilities, Congress should recognize the continued funding of the federal government as a top priority and properly scrutinize the bill.