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Gov’t spending bill facing big obstacles

John Dimsdale Dec 17, 2010
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Gov’t spending bill facing big obstacles

John Dimsdale Dec 17, 2010
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Kai Ryssdal: Right about the time the House was passing the tax deal last night — the president signed it this afternoon, by the way — but right about midnight last night, the Senate’s plan to fund the government through the next fiscal year was going kablooey. Officially money runs out Saturday at midnight.

There is a plan B, but there’s also going to be a price to pay. Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports.


John Dimsdale: Rudy Penner headed up the Congressional Budget Office in the early 1980s, so he’s been watching the process unravel for a long time.

Rudy Penner: It really is inexcusable, the fact they don’t pass appropriations until the fiscal year has already begun.

Both parties, he says, are avoiding tough decisions about rising mandatory spending for health care and Social Security.

Penner: We don’t want to do anything that’s the least bit unpopular, like pass a restrained appropriations bill. It really is a lack of self discipline in my view.

Budget stalemates are also the result of the public’s distaste for earmarks, according to Alex Brill. He’s a budget analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. But, he says, those pork barrel projects buy votes.

Alex Brill: Removing the ability to earmark makes it more difficult to get these bills done. It might at the end be for the better but Congress needs to find a new way to govern if they’re going to appropriate without earmarks.

Temporary extensions leave government agencies with last year’s spending levels. Economist Jack Albertine says the government can’t cut failing programs or start new ones.

Jack Albertine: If you don’t have proper planning, how in the world can you get efficient operation of the government? Patchwork budget activity leads to massive waste of resources and tremendous inefficiencies in government.

Plus, he says, temporary patches mean Congress delays dealing with the ballooning national debt.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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