I Don’t Blame Orszag For Quitting

Word has it that White House budget director, Peter Orszag will be quitting this July to go join a Think Tank. He should do so. It would be the condign response to what has been a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the House of Representatives. Politico.com describes the details of his career change below.

Officials have said for some time that Orszag was trying to decide between leaving this summer and early next year, after the next budget is released. “He went back and forth and couldn’t quite commit,” said a senior colleague. Top aides had pressed him for a decision, and he decided on sooner rather than later, the officials said. Hans Nichols of Bloomberg News first reported the planned departure.

Orszag’s job involves the construction of the Presidential Budget on behalf of the executive branch of government. He can propose this spending, but only the House of Representatives can enact it. Thus, when NRO.com whacks Orszag for leaving behind $Tr budget deficits, this criticism is only partially fair. The saddest thing about Orszag’s departure is the extent to which the whole thing has been considered mundane.

Orszag should not have left to have more family time with his new fiancé and his illegitimate child. He should have left in order to protest the Constitutional Crisis brought on by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her inability to quell the political cowardice of her overwhelming majority. The House of Representatives has a Constitutional responsibility to control the spending of America’s government. This involves putting together a comprehensive, detailed, honest and informative budget resolution so that the country has a plan.

Since the founding of The United States of America, the House of Representatives has had the power of the purse. With that power, as even Spiderman could attest, comes great responsibility. The Framers of The Constitution spoke frequently on the importance of a sound financial process occurring in The House of Representatives.

The U.S. Constitution declares: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” The power of the purse, James
Madison noted in Federalist Paper no. 58, represents the “most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.” In Federalist Paper no. 48, Madison said “the legislative department alone has access to the pockets of the people.”
(HT: House Budget Committee)

But instead of the wise stewardship envisioned by James Madison at the inception of The Great American experiment, we get gamesmanship. We get alternative budget measures. The type where you get to spend the money, but don’t have to confess how much the expenditures will cost.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) said the alternative would be the “functional equivalent” of a full-fledged budget. But because it won’t be a traditional budget resolution, it will be silent on future deficits, which are expected to average nearly $1 trillion for the next decade.

Another convenience of an alternate budget resolution, is that it gets to ignore Glorious and Sanctimonious PAYGO. The Democrats composing Pelosi’s majority loved PAYGO when they campaigned on it in 2006. Living within its limitations hasn’t been as popular. The neutered House of Representatives version, which would be in effect absent an approved Federal Budget, would allow the Congress to declare all spending they didn’t wish to control emergency spending. Thus we get fiascoes such as this.

Both PAYGO measures require new tax cuts or that entitlement programs be paid for with tax increases or spending cuts, but the House PAYGO rule, in place since before the law was enacted, can be more easily bypassed than the PAYGO law. Spratt said the budget may be attached to an upcoming supplemental spending bill, which will provide funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, domestic disaster aid and possibly fiscal aid to states and local governments to retain public workers.

Why the dither? Why the delay? Democrats are afraid to make choices. They are afraid dealing with problems will make them unpopular. They attach the waste, the earmarks and the pork barrel spoils to the war funding. Democrats have learned to love the war. It forces us all to swallow all of Jim Moran’s earmarks and do it for The Troops.™

So Orszag’s decision to resign and enter the Kiddy-Pool section of some left-leaning think tank is appropriate. If Congress can’t be bothered with doing their job, it’s not as if he has any reasonable expectation of successfully accomplishing his. Peter Orszag is not much of a guy and won’t be missed, but if his decision to leave town calls attention to the stupid games being played with our nation’s financial future, than his exit from public service was both proper and condign. For that, at least, he should be commended.