Confession: I was a fat kid.
You don’t need to know how fat, but it was enough that my mom had to establish strict limits on how much of any given food I could eat per meal, and I couldn’t surpass that amount without her express permission.
My family well remembers one such occasion when I was maybe seven years old where I got a little, shall we say, excessive.
I had maxed out for the day on my allotted two corn dogs — my favorite food at the time — but I was still hungry. My mom wasn’t home, so I asked my dad if I could have two more corn dogs.
He approved and I had two more, but I still wasn’t satisfied, so I asked my dad again if I could have two more corn dogs, which he authorized, and so on.
All told, I ended up consuming eight jumbo corn dogs in one meal. And I felt fantastic.
In fairness to my dad, given that each of my requests couldn’t have come more than five minutes apart (I tend to inhale my food), he probably thought I was referring to the same two additional corn dogs each of the three times I petitioned his consent.
Moreover, when my mom found out, there wasn’t much that could be done; I had clearly overeaten, but I hadn’t technically disobeyed procedure.
Believe it or not, congressional budgeting is a lot like an overweight seven-year-old downing corn dogs.
Periodically, despite gouging the American people trillions of dollars already, Congress runs out of money, maxing out on its corn dog limit, as it were. Congress is then faced with two options: 1) a continuing resolution, wherein the legislature passes an appropriations bill and thereby authorizes government funding at the same levels as previously established by that year’s budget until either a specified date or a regular appropriations bill is passed; or 2) a government shutdown until appropriations can be passed.
Since October, when the 2018 fiscal year began, we have seen four continuing resolutions from Congress, two of which materialized only after a government shutdown — the most recent one occurring early Friday morning for approximately eight hours.
This means that Congress has eaten its two corn dogs and gone back to ask for two more corn dogs four times in the last four months. They have now totalled ten corn dogs, which is even more than a certain hefty seven-year-old.
The latest continuing resolution, which put an end to Friday’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shutdown, outlines two years of spending and absolutely blows out the deficit to the tune of $1.2 trillion. And while it’s true that the continuing resolution only extends to March 23 in order to allow for time to iron out all the details, the legislature has bypassed any threat of government shutdown or continuing resolution in the near future.
You see, the traditional two options listed above — a resolution or a shutdown — only trigger due to the debt ceiling, which prohibits spending past a certain point without specific authorization from Congress, who holds the power of the purse. But what would happen if that limit didn’t exist? Then government could spend whatever it wanted with or without a budget, with or without a deficit, and with or without any accountability to the American people. Essentially, it means Congress can write itself a blank check.
Unsurprisingly, Congress has vied for this third option, suspending the debt limit until March 2019 in order to free up legislators to focus on reelection in 2018 and avoid the negative publicity of a government shutdown. To avoid a shutdown, Congress has made itself too big to fail.
And that means that no matter which issues arise, be it DACA, welfare, military, education, or health care, Congress will undoubtedly take advantage of its liberty to spend up the wazoo.
Where there is no accountability, there is no progress. After all, once you grant the obese seven-year-old inexhaustible access to unlimited Foster Farms jumbo corn dogs, he’s not getting any skinnier.