Time to Hold Congress Accountable for Debt Quagmire

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No matter how Obama’s presidency is viewed, if we buy into the notion that it’s he whose spending binge is crippling our nation through massive debt and deficits, we will naturally focus our attention on the White House. The fact of the matter is that Washington has been on a spending binge no matter who has occupied the White House. In 1970, federal spending was $926 billion. Today it’s $3.8 trillion. In inflation-adjusted dollars that’s about a 300 percent increase. Believing that presidents have taxing and spending powers leaves Congress less politically accountable for our deepening economic quagmire. Of course, if you’re a congressman, not being held accountable is what you want.

Let’s look at a minor case that demonstrates Congress’ appropriation powers. The California Navel Orange Commission is a government-sanctioned grower collusion that establishes production quotas so as to restrict supply in order to keep orange prices high. In 1980, the Federal Trade Commission was going to study such agriculture collusions, euphemistically called marketing orders, as a result of increasing criticism from economists, reformers in federal agencies, consumer groups and some orange growers. Big growers descended on Congress to protest the threat to their collusive behavior that an FTC study might create. Congress, as a part of its FTC appropriation, prohibited the agency from monitoring marketing orders. In November 1983, Congress started using a legislative rider to prohibit the Office of Management and Budget from spending any money to review marketing orders.

This example demonstrates that Congress has ultimate spending power and that when it suits favored interest groups, it will use it. Most members of our Republican-controlled House of Representatives say they’re against Obamacare. If they really were, they surely would attach a legislative rider or some other legislative device to the Department of Health and Human Services’ appropriation bill to ban spending any money on Obamacare; they have the power to. But they don’t have the political courage to do so, and their lives are made easier by the pretense that it’s the president controlling the spending. And we fall for it.

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  • http://harborlights/FinancialCartography F.Starkey

    It is just as bad at the State Level with their Millionaire Pensions. And, lying state agencies.
    Lying is the new normal. Public Schools are at the root. Then Tenure for State Workers.
    People have wormed their way into the public treasury depending on the next 2 -5 generations
    to pick up the tab. WAKE UP. Oregon is the harbinger for the USA. Write on that Williams.

  • guest

    Obama and his complicit media has shown there are many ways around the law. Look at his unilateral enforcement of the dream act. Doing what Mr. Williams suggest would led to a showdown with HHS who would either stop Medicare payments to steal the money for their hair brained schemes. DoJ would continue to sue insurance compaines for not following mandates handed down from their dear leader. Politically it would be a disaster especially with GE-NBC, Westinghouse-ViaCom and Disney-ABC rallying behind their big government subsidy messiah.

    Congress does have the spending powers but they go to the President for leadership. Constitutionally the President provides the state of the union which sets the standard from which Congress works. Congressional bills always go to a bicameral joint committee with Senators.

    Also anyone heard Democrats saying now "Don't blame us, we didn't have 60 votes" and then blame republicans for the housing crisis when Dems blocked 17 Fannie/Freddie reforms in a 50/50 Senate.

  • Stephan

    My question is this: How can academics, politicians, news media people and ordinary citizens continually make and get away with statements such as “Reagan’s budget deficits,” “Clinton’s budget surplus,” “Bush’s tax cuts” and “Obama’s spending binge”?

    I read the late Alan Stang and I know the answer: They are all part of the Communist Broadcast System.

  • amused

    Great article Williams , and I though critical thinking was dead .It seems atleast one person amongst the numerous authors here POSSESS it !

    BTW Stephan , you're a dope .

  • watsa46

    This is forceful redistribution. If given a chance they will rewrite the constitution to the benefit of the far left. But both Repub and Demos are guilty.

  • davarino

    And then to approve the measure that defaulted to certain spending cuts if "congress" didnt do their job is just insane. And the fact that we havent had a budget in 3 years is just ludicrous. WTF is going on? Lack of education, and the Chicago teachers want to go on strike? Really, teachers deserve any pay raise? I wish I had that kind of deal at my job, performance doesnt matter and I get to demand what pay I get, lovely.

    • Jim_C

      davarino, the teachers–who have not struck in 25 years, remember–are striking about a lot more than pay raises. Work conditions are lousy, for students as well as teachers, and bad work conditions are something unions have struck over since unions began. Imagine yourself stuck in a classroom, supplies for which you paid yourself, upwards of 90 degrees crammed with twice the amount of middle schoolers you'd normally deal with. I doubt you'd survive the week, much less get the job done you needed to. Something tells me you have a lot cushier deal than they do.

      But Rahm & company see an opportunity to cripple the union, and they are taking it.

  • Tanstaafl jw

    We have to gain control of the Senate and the Oval Office.

  • Jim_C

    Good article.

    You and I get it, but there's so much money invested in making sure most people don't get it. All you need to do is watch any news program, left or right. Let's face it: Congress just isn't sexy.

    To that end, if conservatives would get on board with the idea that there is a sort of unconscious (I'll be generous here) oligarchy undermining our democratic republic, we might actually get some work done getting this country back on the success track. I had hoped the TEA party would adopt that sort of attitude and a little more outrage over Wall Street shenanigans, but that movement was really just grass roots republicanism. And I hoped the Occupy movement would realize that Wall Street plays a very important role in our economic engine and is not a dime novel villain–but I hope for too much.

  • Frank Livingston

    I was having a discussion with family members the other day and told them the farther we get away from the date our Founding Fathers debated the Constitution and signed it the more our citizens would forget how government was designed to operate. We have a president who thinks he is a King and can make laws by Executive Order and spend money we do not have. We have politicians forgetting the limits our Founding Fathers placed on our national government when they wrote in the Constitution Article I, Section 8 and the limiting clauses 1-18. Simply put, if it was not listed in these eighteen (18) clauses then the federal government could not do it or spend out tax dollars on it and the 10th amendment kicked it which states: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. When I asked them if they knew how a spending bill became law they did not know. When I asked if they knew the president could not spend a dime if the House did not authorize it, they did not know.
    I knew in the mid 1950s when I first learned about the Constitution if FDR could get a bill passed called the Social Security Act then citizens would demand more and more and our useless politicians would continue giving it to them because their main goal is to “bring home the bacon” and but them votes. Cultural Marxism has overtake our National/Homeland Security and Constitution so we just but their votes with stuff.
    I love Williams articles and we need more true American heroes like him teach us about our Constitution and our spending.