There was a time when the federal government’s annual budget was submitted by the president and decided by the Congress in a relatively straightforward fashion. A time when it wasn’t so difficult to figure out what the government spent taxpayers’ money on.
But this is, or soon will be, 2010, and President Obama’s promises of transparency aside, the new way of doing things in the perpetual wartime economy is to pass bulky spending bills filled with anything and everything Congressmen want on an accelerated schedule, every few months.
In today’s example, a 1088 page $1.1 trillion “compromise” spending bill passed through the House of Representatives in a 221-202 vote along partisan lines. The bill covers everything from veteran’s benefits to arbitration for car dealers and, of course, a hefty raise in the foreign aid budget.
The latest massive spending bill comes less than two months after the White House signed a $680 billion “Defense Spending Bill,” which included hate crimes legislation provisions and restarted military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay.
That bill itself came just a few months after a $106 billion “emergency” war spending bill, which included a number of “pet projects,” including the so-called Cash for Clunkers program that subsidized new car purchases in return for a promise to destroy what were in many cases servicable used cars.
Which of course came not long after the $787 billion “stimulus bill” aimed at hurling enough money at assorted government programs that the economy would improve.
When President Obama took office, he promised a more transparent budget, particularly with promises to stop requesting “emergency” war spending bills to pay for what are now several year old wars.
This promise, like so many others, will likely be ignored, as the defense budgets have projected a more rapid pullout from Iraq and did not include last week’s massive escalation of the Afghan War, itself a $30 billion addition to the annual cost. Instead, America seems poised to continue the new way of doing things, piecemeal spending bills which provide ample opportunity to include the trendy projects that Congress craves and the unclear picture of the overall cost of war that keeps the voter largely in the dark about how much the nation’s assorted adventures really cost.