September 12th, 2012

The Silly Season #2: Four Years Without a Federal Budget?


The silly season is upon us!

As we noted two posts ago, a few lines in Federalist Papers Number 51 by James Madison summarize the current position of Americans vis a vis the national government:  “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:  you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”  The Founders struggled with both halves of this “great difficulty.”  Today, we struggle with the second half:  How to “oblige [the national government] to control itself.”

We’ve now gone almost four years without a federal budget.  Factions control the activities of the House and the Senate.  Two years of one party control of the House, the Senate, and the Presidency did not produce legislation establishing a federal budget.  The next two years of one party controlling the House, and the other party controlling the Senate and the Presidency have not produced legislation establishing a federal budget.

Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution sets forth the process by which legislation is to be handled by the Congress.  Here are the first two sentences of Article I, Section 7:

Article I, Section 7.

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it.  [Provisions for overriding a President’s “objections” and for “bills” that become law without signature are omitted.]

Bills “for raising Revenue” must originate in the House!  Why?  As Madison and Hamilton note in The Federalist Papers, and Valerius in essay Number 50 of The New Federalist Papers, this was because the House was most responsive to the wishes of American citizens.  Unlike the Senate, all members of the House are elected in each federal election.

The Founders foresaw the danger of factions – but they did not foresee that competing factions would prefer four years of impasse to compliance with the mandates of the Constitution.  And, for voters, no one is accountable.  How Senators can take their pay (or not resign) for failing to pass a budget over four years is unimaginable!

In Amendment 5, Section 1 of The Second Bill of Rights, we propose a practical fix that favors citizen voters:  annual government-wide financial statements and the President’s recommended budget, delivered on October 1, five to six weeks before federal elections.

Second Bill of Rights 5.

  1. The fiscal year for the federal government shall begin on April 1 and end on the following March 31.  Before October 1, the President shall present to Congress government-wide financial statements in accord with generally accepted government accounting principles for the previous fiscal year with comparisons to the prior two fiscal years, and which shall:  include a statement of net assets and a statement of activities; report all of the assets, the condition thereof, current and future liabilities, revenues, expenses, gains and losses of government; distinguish between governmental and business-type activities; and include discussion and analysis.  Before October 1, the President shall present to Congress his recommended budget for the next fiscal year, in a format consistent with the government-wide financial statements, with projected revenues, expenses, gains, and losses, changes in assets and the condition thereof, current and future liabilities, along with discussion and analysis.

With Section 1 of Amendment 5 in place, voters would finally be in a position to actually hold the House, the Senate, and the President responsible for both sound and transparent fiscal policy.

To learn more about how the Finance and Revenue Amendments in The Second Bill of Rights provide appropriate navigational aids to our elected officials to implement the Constitution, please see essay Numbers 32 to 40 of The New Federalist Papers

To read more generally about how to rekindle individual freedom and liberty in the United States, click on the Book link above or go directly to Amazon:

With malice toward none, and charity for all!


Connect with us

The New Federalism

Arlington, MA 02476
Fill out my online form.