A little knowledge goes a long way

A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE GOES A LONG WAY…. Two weeks ago, the House Appropriations Committee finished its staff assignments. One week ago, the committee picked an arbitrary number, and presented a plan to slash domestic spending in a variety of key areas, including education and law enforcement. This week, the House is likely to vote on the committee’s plan.

The Center for American Progress’ Scott Lilly, a former staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, noted late last week that a lot of these lawmakers literally don’t know what they’re doing.

With many of the 93 freshmen members of the House still asking rudimentary budget questions such as: “what is the difference between an authorization and an appropriation?” or “how do outlays differ from budget authority?” the time frame that Rep. Rogers and his leadership are committed to means that not only will those voting on the proposal have little opportunity to understand it but the authors themselves will not have fully vetted or completely understood what they are proposing.

There have been no hearings, no requests for testimony, and no opportunity even for staff charged with proposing the cuts to do agency-by-agency analysis of the possible negative consequences. Members will vote [this] week on the package without fundamental knowledge of how major budget changes in literally thousands of federal programs will impact the country in general or their own constituents in particular.

This really isn’t going to go well. Indeed, it’s no way to run an effective government.

For what it’s worth, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) appeared on Fox News yesterday, and raised the specter of a temporary extension before March 4 to avert a government shutdown.

“I think that’s a very viable possibility: a short-term extension while we work out a compromise,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

I’d still put the odds of a shutdown at around 50%, but a temporary extension would at least push the cliff a little further away. The problem, though, may get even worse if House Republicans still demand $100 billion in cuts after the extension, when the time frame for the remainder of the fiscal year shrinks even more, necessitating even more ridiculous spending cuts over a shorter period of time.