Researcher and Writer in Washington, DC

How to Put the “Most Complete and Effectual Weapon” Back in Their Hands

Indubitably, our nation’s finances are a mess. America has run deficits 36 of the past 40 years. The national debt is $18 trillion, and it has tripled as a percentage of GDP since 1974.

Each February, the President rolls out his budget—a collection of tomes loaded with tables and text attempting to explain the government’s $3.7 trillion in spending. And where does this money go? Mostly to fund long-existing federal agencies and programs.

The public, already horrified by the rising waters of red ink, are further enraged by Congress’ ineptitude. Both chambers have adopted a budget resolution on time only six times since 1977. Congress blows its own April 15 deadline by an average of nearly 40 days. Congress virtually never passes the 12 appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year (September 30), and often fails to votes on a single one. Instead, the leaders avert a government shutdown at the last minute by rushing through omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions whose contents are unknown to most legislators.

In December, I saw up close just how estranged Congress has become from the power of the purse. I was one of four witnesses before a subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee of the House of Representatives. The hearing’s topic was the money collected by executive agencies in the form of fees, fines, and settlements. It is a whopping sum: $516 billion per year, an amount equal to about one-seventh of the federal budget….(Read more at

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