Americans Get Thrown Under the Omnibus Again
The massive omnibus spending bill barreling through Congress brings to mind the book Thrown Under the Omnibus by the late humorist P.J. O’Rourke. Unfortunately, not much has changed since the book’s publication in 2015. Politicians are once again playing political games with another massive spending bill. The game is simple: support this massive omnibus spending effort or suffer the political consequences of a partial government shutdown.
Once again, Congress can and should take some valuable lessons from the states. For starters, 49 of the 50 “laboratories of democracy” are required to balance their budgets. A perfect example of a meaningful balanced budget amendment comes from Indiana, where then-Governor Mike Pence and ALEC members in the legislature, shepherded into law one of the most effective state balanced budget amendments in the nation.
Meanwhile, in Congress, the 2,700-page Omnibus bill would take 396 hours to read and understand, but Speaker Pelosi is only giving members of Congress and their staff less than 12 hours before the vote is scheduled. Instead of saying, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it,” the 72-Hour Budget Review rule as outlined in the ALEC State Budget Reform Toolkit has been an effective reform at the state level. Allowing an opportunity for a detailed review by the public prior to hearings or votes on budget bills would help increase public trust in government and enhance accountability for the spending decisions being made.
In addition to increasing base spending by a massive $1.5 trillion, the omnibus bill brings earmarks back with a vengeance! Originally banned in 2011, earmarks have come back in the Omnibus Bill, often under the wholesome moniker, “community project funding.” These earmarks and appropriations are the largest increase in non-defense discretionary spending in four years, often serving special interests at the expense of hardworking Americans.
While no one has had the time to go through the full bill, here are some highlights:
- Over $20.5 billion in environmental spending, including billions of dollars to the EPA, subsidies for certain energy sources, and spending to reduce carbon emissions. This attempt at sneaking in wish list items from the Green New Deal through earmarks comes as gas prices are reaching an all-time high.
- $12.59 billion for the IRS, including adding thousands of additional IRS agents just after politicians unsuccessfully tried to get the IRS to monitor private transactions last year.
These spending ideas will total an additional $880 billion over 10 years, not counting the appropriations dedicated to Ukraine and COVID-19 spending. This spending will lead to more pressure on the Federal Reserve to purchase U.S. Treasury notes with newly printed money as the debt continues to balloon.
The more the federal government spends, and the Fed prints money, the higher the inflation rate will grow. With the inflation rate already at its highest in 40 years and climbing, Americans are struggling as they see their purchasing power and standard of living fall. This decline in purchasing power has been clearly documented by our friend Andy Puzder.
In an attempt to cover part of the cost of new spending, some in Congress looked at the idea of removing funds for state and local governments—although numerous states drafted budgets with the expectation that these funds were available. For years, ALEC warned that federal dollars come to states with costly strings attached and addressed the many policy challenges with a federal bailout of the states.
It’s long overdue for our federal leaders to slam the breaks on wasteful spending and take an important page from the states, where 49 of the 50 are required to at least attempt to balance their budgets.