3/17/2005

Sham of a Congress

From a NYT editorial:
The Republican majorities in Congress have begun another of their deficit-deepening wrangles over the annual budget with a shameful rejection of the pay-as-you-go discipline that helped the nation achieve healthy surpluses in the 1990's. Instead, the two houses are busy invoking sham versions that make a show of mandating cuts in selective programs, while once again ignoring lost revenues and mounting debt on the other side of the ledger. True Paygo, as the abandoned discipline is known, mandates that when deep deficits loom, any proposed tax cuts and program enrichments must actually be paid for by specified savings or new revenues elsewhere in the budget. Worried Republican moderates and Democrats failed to restore this tool yesterday in the Senate. Real pay-as-you-go discipline disappeared along with budget surpluses as the result of a souring economy, the war in Iraq and the serial Bush tax cuts. Yet this is the one emergency tool most needed if the White House and Congress are ever to deliver on their campaign promises to somehow, someday, tackle deficits estimated at $4 trillion-plus across the next decade. Paygo was at the heart of the last display of honest, bipartisan budget discipline in the 90's. A proposal by Senator Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, to restore this obvious force for good was rejected, 50 to 50, in the Senate. That vote provided a sad answer to one of the major budget questions this week as the world watches for believable evidence that the government might begin to rationally confront its own profligacy.

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