The first Monday in February is a very special day. It’s the day that the president produces his proposed budget for the following fiscal year, and it marks the beginning of a rich, annual pageant that ends with the mid-summer passage of spending bills for all the federal agencies.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know how little of that is true.
In fact, more often than not, the Obama Administration has been late producing the budget. That kicks off a process that’s not exactly a pageant. And Congress very often fails to budget and set spending priorities before the start of the next fiscal year.
Are we beginning that sloppy process again? Looks like it.
President Obama will not release the budget today. The director of the Office of Management and Budget announced on Twitter in early January that the budget will come out on February 9th.
That’s been fairly common in the Obama years. With the latest tardy budget, it will be six out of eight budgets introduced late.
|Budget Year||Due Date||Date Issued|
|FY 2010||February 2, 2009||February 26, 2009|
|FY 2011||February 1, 2010||February 1, 2010|
|FY 2012||February 7, 2011||February 14, 2011|
|FY 2013||February 6, 2012||February 13, 2012|
|FY 2014||February 4, 2013||April 10, 2013|
|FY 2015||February 3, 2014||March 4, 2014|
|FY 2016||February 2, 2015||February 2, 2015|
|FY 2017||February 1, 2016||February 9?|
Congress is responsible for its own failings, of course. It could run the spending process on time whether or not the president produced a budget on the due date.
But Congress and the president are both in the same boat politically. They both know that the press and the people don’t follow this stuff very carefully. A late budget travels under the radar. Being late with the spending bills—or not producing some of them at all—doesn’t make much news. And at the end of the process, a big omnibus bill filled with nonsense does things that nobody knows about until it’s too late. That is not a very democratic process, and at that point people get angry.
What should you do about this particular situation? Like always, making noise about what you care about raises your influence. Write a letter to the president and tell your friends about it. Write a letter to your congressman and senators, and tell your friends about it. Write a letter to the editor. Tell your friends about it.
If you’re like most politically aware people, though, you’re focusing on the Democratic and Republican primaries. You’re focusing on the personalities and the controversy. You don’t even feel that hand in your pocket.
But when you and others like you start raising the alarm about sloppy, non-transparent budgeting, things will start to change. So make some noise, and tell your friends about it. Until you do, you’ll continue to be disappointed by budget day.