We recently voted to send a new Congressman to Washington DC to represent us and vote according to the Constitution. I think Mr. Fulcher will do a great job, in the limited capacity allowed. He talks about reining in spending to levels authorized by our founding documents, but it’s alarming how much of federal spending is not voted on by Congress.
According to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, most of the real budget-busters are on autopilot. Of the $3.7 trillion Uncle Sam spent in 2015, the GAO found that $3.2 trillion of it was spent without explicit congressional authorization. That means Congress voted on just 14 percent of all federal outlays that year.
How did that happen when the Constitution vests the power of the purse in Congress alone? The answer is that Congress has seen fit to take most spending decisions out of its own hands.
As pointed out by Michael Tennant in his recent article for thenewamerican.com, “it is primarily done by creating programs whose budgets are determined by who is eligible to receive benefits and at what levels. These are known as “permanent appropriations.”
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Medicare, had the largest spending authority and permanent appropriations in 2015: $979 billion, or about 30 percent of all such spending. The Social Security Administration came in a close second with $928 billion, or 28 percent. Then the Treasury Department was next with $542 billion, or 17 percent, most of which went to pay interest on the national debt. All told, permanently funded programs accounted for $2.6 trillion, or 70 percent of all spending.”
So Congressman Fulcher will have a small say in a shrinking pile of funds. But wait, Congress has also ceded its power to federal agencies in other ways, including offsetting collections, contract authority, and borrowing authority, all of which allow agencies to disburse cash without an appropriation.
I agree with Mr. Tennant who says, “Representatives and senators need to reclaim spending decisions from unelected bureaucrats as required by the Constitution. Then they need to follow the rest of that document and start slashing away at the countless programs that are driving the United States toward fiscal ruin.”