Monday, February 19, 2018

Marples: Budget standoffs create a dangerous patchwork quilt

By James A. Marples
Feb. 3, 2018 at 12:04 a.m.

As we have seen from the recent 69-hour shutdown of the U.S. government, the threats of (and implementation of) government shutdowns accomplish very little as far as congressional negotiations with regard to legislation impasses. The shutdowns themselves are costly, confusing and hurt the average American. The politicians who provoked the recent shutdown are akin to pouting kids on a school playground who can't get their way — and who won't play by the rules.

To reopen the government, both houses of Congress and the president must sign a continuing resolution, or CR. I am amazed at how many people who don't know what this is.

A continuing resolution is a temporary resolution voted upon to continue monetary appropriations of budgetary monies (at their current level), but just extended for a specified period of time. In the recent case, the current CR just keeps the government open until Thursday. Then, it is possible we may see another fiscal square dance.

I personally believe CRs should be used rarely and sparingly, such as in cases of war or natural disaster.

The United States government is supposed to have an annual budget. Its fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 of the following year. All government programs, operations, manpower, equipment and related necessities in each governmental department is supposed to have money allocated. I am a believer in adhering to a budget and insisting that government heads return any unused monies if left unspent by the end of the fiscal year. Too many bureaucrats are of the mindset of "spend it or lose it." That's fine if it's a private sector coupon for a buy-one-get-one-free hot dog or some similar promotion. But, the public sector should be scrupulously clean. Sadly, it's often, not.

I don't like politicians treating continuing resolutions as a way to hold the other political party hostage to pinpoint demands. Nor do I like it that the debt ceiling is usually raised to accommodate a CR.

In our age of smartphones and internet banking, many people have lost sight of the precious value of a dollar. Back before 1935, when dollars were nearly pure silver, citizens had a greater appreciation of money and what it took to earn it. Now, people just look at impersonal digits on the screen.

Continuing resolutions represent money appropriated as an extension to a current budget. When used, I believe it should be for a narrow and specific purpose. I detest the tactic used to simply kick the can down the road. Some day, our national debt will come back to haunt us. Some people theorize the the USA might someday default and countries such as China (who own a lot of our Treasury notes) will simply gulp and swallow the loss. I don't think so. I think they will physically take possessions of the United States as collateral instead.

Government shutdowns are threats by bullies with no brains. Politicians cussing like a sailor won't solve problems. Acting as dignified statesmen should be the maxim, or golden rule.

I hope in the November elections that voters will remember the positions taken by not only both parties, but individual legislators. There were culprits on both sides of the aisle who were complicit in this and they should be kicked out of political office. We need statesmen who faithfully guard the purse strings of the nation, not political grandstanding by mere actors fueled by lobbyists nor narcissistic stroking of egos. The needs of the entire nation should be the top priority.

No more kicking the can down the road with continuing resolutions unless an absolutely dire necessity exists to bridge a gap in a shortfall. Continuing resolutions were meant to be a single financial bridge to tide over until the next budgetary year. Sewing a patchwork quilt of continuing resolutions is dangerous.

— James A. Marples, a Longview resident, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum.



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