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  • A Plan to Limit Dishonesty in Congress

    Give two U.S. Senators credit for trying to do something about the smoke-and-mirrors games in Washington.

    The “Honest Budget Act” by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) goes to the heart of public distrust of Congress, namely the dishonest budget gimmicks and accounting tricks.

    The public is rebelling because too many “budget cuts” have turned out to be spending increases or, at best, promises that a future Congress will curtail spending.

    By no means does the senators’ legislation fix all the problems, but it’s definitely a good start.  They take aim at what they calculate are $350-billion in gimmicks used during recent years, by both political parties.  Their checklist includes:

    –No budget, no spending. It’s been over two years since the Senate has adopted a budget plan.  The proposal is to prevent any new spending whenever an overall budget has not been approved by Congress.

    –Quit crying wolf. So-called “emergency spending” is exempted from budgetary limits, so they propose that any claimed emergency must have supermajority approval.  (As Heritage has noted, “routine expenditures [are] given the emergency designation simply to evade spending caps.”)

    –No phony piggy bank raids. We have hundreds of billions in unspent money that was appropriated in prior years–$703-billion was the total at the start of fiscal year 2011.  Rather than canceling those old, unused and unnecessary obligations from prior years, Congress re-directs them to new spending that is then exempted from normal spending limits.  The proposal would curtail the practice.

    –A freeze should be a freeze. Remember President Obama’s claims last year that federal workers’ pay has been frozen for two years?  The claim is phony, because of backdoor “step increase” adjustments that have averaged 2-3% increases. Under the plan, those would be frozen until 2013.

    –No time games. Billions of dollars of revenue and spending have been “deemed” to occur a day earlier or later, so that they’re credited to a different federal fiscal year.  The IRS won’t let taxpayers ignore the actual calendar, so Congress shouldn’t either.

    The Sessions-Snowe plan is good.  As they say, the goal is, “No more gimmicks, tricks, or empty promises. America deserves an honest budget.

    Their plan will not, however, curtail all of Washington’s huge bag of tricks.  Many more are described in a Heritage guide, “Things You Never Knew About Appropriations—But Should.”

    And even if Congress fixes its process, that won’t fix the rhetoric—the false claims that are routinely made about the contents of spending bills.  But the longest journey begins with a single step, and the senators’ plan would start that journey on the right foot.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    12 Responses to A Plan to Limit Dishonesty in Congress

    1. BarbaraLynn says:

      As a CPA in public practice I know how easily and often numbers can be manipulated by someone interested in "changing" costs or projections or deficits, etc. And ever-increasing regulations are never the answer…it comes down to honesty.

      This might be the right time in America for honesty to become a mandate from the voters aka transparency. That would mean electing and appointing persons of character with records of responsible stewardship and great respect for the American people.

      America has such vast resources, both physical and human, and to have them misused and squandered and then the facts manipulated is immoral, destructive and, in some cases, criminal.

    2. usageorge says:

      Refreshing bill,now lets see if it gos anywhere, and who is for and who is against it. Something like this
      has to be kept in the public view. Where ever it gos,folks can see the actions of representatives and see threw the fog of words.

    3. Bobbie says:

      Limit dishonesty? how about getting rid of it and showing accountability at all times with corrections and punishment? How about the Constitution and the government's oath!? How about any acts of government that is in conflict of America, is removed or gets a pay cut? How about government sacrificing before forcing it on the people? the efforts are very appreciated but this is such an immature administration, hiding from everything they're doing! FORCING GOVERNMENT ACTS OF CONSEQUENCES ON THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY!

      • Brian Fowler says:

        Speaking of oaths, how about consequences for not honoring your oath to "support and defend" the constitution? If you think our federal leaders need to be held accountable, go to http://breachofoath.com and add your voice!

        • Bobbie says:

          You're exactly right, Mr. Fowler. It's so ugly to see the government who use to show significantly more respect in the representation of the people, for the people and by the people, turn on us! Everything has been setting up for years to come to this!

    4. deathtononbelivers says:

      get rid of base line budgeting, then a spending cut will really be a spending cut.

    5. Marvin Carman says:

      No lying and lying to the taxpayers and media, and the public should be a tensure and three tensure you will have to leave your job for good. That will bring trust in both bodys of the government. Even the president should be included.

    6. voteright2012 says:

      If you really want to eliminate dishonesty in Washington, DC — 1) Eliminate Congressional/Senatorial/Presidential retirement pensions and perquisites. The Constitution only calls for "Compensation for their Services" (Article I Sec 6) and (Article II Sec 1). —- 2) Any Elected person running for re-election and/or running for another Federal Elected Office will take a Leave of Absence Without Pay for the Campaign Period of not less than 6 months.

    7. poorhardworker says:

      I do not know what party these two belong to because it doesn't matter! The are on the right track and should be commended! Finally, a glimmer of common sense that should be applied to both parties, the President, and everyone associated with governing us.

    8. Heritage Member says:

      As a federal employee, let me clarify the point about 'a freeze should be a freeze'. The step increase is awarded federal employees for seniority, usally in two year increments. The COLA (cost of living allowance) increase was what Pres. Obama froze. I know I'll be critized for this, but I have to give Pres. Obama the honesty pass for stating he was freezing COLA increases for federal employees, It pains me to give Obama a pssing grade for honesty, but the facts are the facts. Incidentailly, Congress approves the annual Military and Federal Employee's COLA increases, which is two separate figures. This is not to be confused with the Social Security receipent's annual COLA increase which is tied to the Consumer Price Index.

    9. BOB BARRETT says:

      i would just repeat what my dear old Grand Mother would say often: ' MOST ELECTED OFFICIALS WILL LIE, CHEAT, AND STEEL JUST TO GET RE-ELECTED.>

      ,

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