Pay as You Go – But Will They Do It?

In a fine example of political maneuvering, the new Democratic majority in congress is pushing a pay as you go policy on spending, to combine with greater transparency on pork barrel projects.

Since it’s probably impossible to have federal building projects determined strictly by some neutral group on the basis of value in building infrastructure and the economy, I suppose making the methods of getting pork into the budget more transparent is a good thing. At least it’s a better thing than what we have. So is “pay as you go,” something the federal government has not done well on in the past.

But passing a bill that says they’re going to pay as they go may not be the same thing as doing it. As voters, we should be very watchful of what actually goes on. Some of the methods that could be used to circumvent such legislation could include creative accounting practices (corrupt corporations have nothing on the federal budget on this point) and special exceptions for important things. Of course those items would be passed with much less fanfare.

Both Republicans and Democrats are talking balanced budgets these days. Clinton would up with a surplus. At this point, I’m not willing to believe that the Democratic congress will show similar restraint to what President Clinton did. I’d love to be surprised.

The important thing is not to be deceived by the names of bills, or by passage of laws that are essentially intentions. Look for the performance.

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