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Front Page

In This Issue   OUR BUDGET CROSSROADS

· Update on Wonderland aka Washington D.C.

· History of Budgeting process

· Elimination of the line item veto

· American Spectator letter response

· The revolution in America?

MORE FROM

“ALICE IN WONDERLAND”  WASHINGTON, D C. 

From the top of Ole Mt. P.

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

The federal budget for 2011 was due by September 30, 2010.  During the several previous months the Democrats controlled all three of the elective branches that must act on the budget.  Now, six months later, Democrats want to blame the delay on Republicans who have since gained a majority in the House plus several seats in the Senate.

 

More Lewis Carroll politics!  And the budget for next year, 2012, seems likely to encounter even larger problems.

   So, How about

SOME HISTORY REGARDING OUR FEDERAL BUDGETS

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

The CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES makes no direct reference to budgets.  Federal budgeting was not a particularly vital process until late in the nineteenth century.  Except for the costs of various wars, federal expenditures were modest.  Tariffs on imports and sales of federal lands supplied most revenues, often surpluses.

 

Early in the twentieth century it became obvious that the lack of an orderly budgeting process was no longer tolerable.  The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 began our more modern system.  It provided for an executive budget proposal early each year.  Congressional action was to be completed by June 30, and that budget was to be for the year following.  In 1974, with President Nixon leaving, Congress passed the Budget and Impoundment Control Act.  Congress claimed for itself three additional months to act, and provided for its own tentative budget proposal.  That, I believe, only compounded our budgeting problems. 

 

Both our constitutional and our partisan systems are now more compromised and tangled.  The much lamented “earmarks” are only a recent increase of a decades-long increase in budget details.  By specifying minutely the purposes for which money is appropriated, Congress reduces substantially the discretion of the Executive Branch.  That is a significant infringement of what should be executive powers.

      CLINTON

V.

CITY OF NEW YORK

The elimination of the line item veto.

 

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

One act of the “Gingrich Revolution” was providing the Clinton Presidency, and its successors with a new, but limited, power of “Line Item” veto. That is, the President could veto some portions of appropriations without nixing the entire bill.  Such a power is available to Governors in many American states.  It is unneeded in most parliamentary systems.  There the cabinet, or “Government,” introduces its budget and a severe change by the parliament will usually produce a new election.  But, in the United States, the new executive power was quickly challenged, and defeated in our Supreme Court.

 

In most modern democratic political systems the popularly chosen chief executive develops a budget and the opportunities for the legislative branch after it is submitted are quite limited.  In our federal government Congress limits, greatly, the President’s budgeting power, often by attaching to a financial item that he must have other things that, if separate, he would veto.

 

The Republican House majority during Clinton’s second term offered him the item veto.  The Constitution makes no specific reference to budgeting.  But, in that case Clinton v. City of New York, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court (6-3) invalidated the “line item” veto. It did that on grounds that, in my opinion, were neither a strict interpretation of the Constitution nor a wise adaptation of traditional theory to modern practices.

 

Were those Justices who voted against the item veto influenced by the fact that, in recent American politics, it has usually been Republican Presidents who have been most harassed by Congresses of the other party?

And some additional

reminders on Budgets

The following is a portion of my letter to

THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR, 5/98

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

Abuse of power was one impeachment charge against President Nixon.  It rested partly upon his attempt to impound funds that had been appropriated by Congress, mainly funds for Senator Muskie’s Clean Water Act.  On that the President was taken to court, and defeated in the Supreme Court.

 

Actually, Nixon had accepted large spending increases for clean water, but had argued that only about half of what Congress appropriated could be spent productively, i.e. without greatly inflating the cost of scarce construction resources.  He also cited legislation directing him to refrain from any wasteful spending.  It occurred to me, long after Nixon had resigned, that something about that was being overlooked.  From the STATISTICAL ABSTRACT I learned that actual expenditures for clean water during the years in question were just about what Nixon had recommended.  And, inflation in public construction did exceed that in most of the economy.

 

Measured by his record plurality and near record majority in 1972, Richard Nixon had, arguably, the strongest claim to office of any President so far.  Judged by his fulfillment of promises to Vietnamese the war, he deserves special credit for wartime leadership.

 

Note:  I have added the following note to this article.

At the time of the Clean Water Act and the subsequent Budget and Impoundment Control Act, Senator Muskie was both an author and a sponsor of those pieces of legislation.  The net outcome was to reduce powers that many Presidents, including Jefferson, had exercised. Muskie was also, a major Democrat candidate for the Presidency.

  WHAT IS

HAPPENING TO AMERICA?

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

     America is facing a revolution, by mostly legal and peaceful means.  By revolution I mean a replacement of the old elite by a new one.  To accomplish that, the old elite must be discredited and driven from power.

 

     Actually, America’s old industrial/financial elite, powerful in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, has been yielding ground for a century.  The New Deal weakened it substantially at first, but WWII and the successes of our huge armament production won it a reprieve.  That was followed by the rebuilding of most of our former allies and enemies.  Several decades of success in competition with the Soviet Union, plus our own growing prosperity, further inoculated the old elite against change.

 

     Meanwhile however, an old element of American society was benefiting from huge investments of both public and private money.  Communication, once a hireling and servant of larger social organs, was gaining vast influence in its own right.  Tens of thousands of prosperous writers, broadcasters, professors, and actors, plus even greater numbers of college students and new grads were increasingly able to communicate with one another. Added to unionized public school teachers and government bureaucrats, they were becoming a political phalanx to which industry and finance related more as client or tenant than as master.

 

     Only the American Presidency retained enough of its traditional popular following and vigor to defy the new elite, an elite with more legal immunities than the old one ever had.  And, the Presidents who have recently won by the largest popular margins have had to face particularly bitter and damaging mass media assaults upon their persons and their powers.

 

     If the intellectual elite can now capture this nation’s chief executive office with a candidate little encumbered by past public commitments, America’s future may indeed take a new turn—to what?