Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Legislative Transparency and Accountability?

If you're in favor of legislative transparency and accountability, don't look for it in the so-called "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" passed yesterday by the Senate to avert the "fiscal cliff."

What's in the 157 page Senate budget bill? Contrary to media over-simplifications, it's not just about individual income taxes. Those are just in Title II.  There's a lot here that changes very little.

Title I - General Extensions 
Title II - Individual Tax Extenders
Title III - Business Tax Extenders
Title IV - Energy Tax Extenders
Title V - Unemployment
Title VI - Medicare and Other Health Extensions 
Title VII - Extension of Agricultural Programs
Title IX - Miscellaneous Provisions
Title X - Budget Provisions

A few observations...

  • There is no Title VIII. Odd. Why?  Is that where the spending cuts were supposed to be?
  • Title IX, section 901, "Strategic Delivery Systems" has the following provision: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, is amended—
    (1) by striking ‘‘that’’ before ‘‘the Russian Federation’’ and inserting ‘‘whether’’; and
    (2) by inserting ‘‘strategic’’ before ‘‘arms control obligations’’.
    What does this mean?  Why is it part of this bill?
  • Title IX, Section 902 denies Congress a cost of living pay raise in 2013. Good
  • Title X is the "kick the can down the road" section, extending spending authorizations in large, vague buckets, (Section 1001), a seemingly random modification of one rule about Roth IRA accounts (Section 1002) and most significantly, absolving Congress of accountability for the balanced budget effect of the bill (Section 1011):
    (a) PAYGO SCORECARD.—The budgetary effects of this Act shall not be entered on either PAYGO scorecard maintained pursuant to section 4(d) of the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010.
    (b) SENATE PAYGO SCORECARD.—The budgetary effects of this Act shall not be entered on any PAYGO scorecard maintained for purposes of section 201 of S. Con. Res. 21 (110th Congress).

A Personal Reaction

It's time for both parties, the White House, and both houses of Congress to stop campaigning and start governing. Is this the best they can do, beyond the last minute, with two years to work on it? We, the people, deserve a better work product from our government leaders. They are simply not doing their job.

Read It For Yourself

You can find the full PDF of the bill here.