Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Boehner also proposed to break spending bills into smaller bills for each federal agency or function rather than piling education with health care, for example, into a giant log-rolling exercise. The man who would be Speaker didn't say whether he'd let reformers like Mr. Flake onto the Appropriations Committee, where the spending culture is ingrained. But he ought to do so, and we'd recommend that he also impose term limits for Appropriators, so it wouldn't be a life-time pork-barrel sinecure.

Most intriguingly, Mr. Boehner suggested that "we ought to start at square one and give serious consideration to revisiting, and perhaps rewriting, the 1974 Budget Act." Now he's getting somewhere. That law, passed over the veto of a Watergate-weakened Richard Nixon, further rigged the budget process to abet spending. It killed the President's impoundment power not to spend money, and it established the annual "budget baseline" that makes spending increases automatic. Thus even a reduction in the amount of spending increase in a program becomes a budget "cut" that special interests can attack. Mr. Boehner should consult Budget ranking Member Paul Ryan and former Member Chris Cox for reform ideas.

The larger insight here is that Democrats have organized Congress and written its rules to aid and abet their policy priorities. During their last time in the majority, Republicans didn't do enough to rewrite those rules to assist their ostensible goal of limiting government power and reducing spending and taxes. They shouldn't make the same mistake again.

In addition to rewriting the Budget Act, Republicans need to assert control over the scoring conventions at the Congressional Budget Office that typically underestimate spending—see ObamaCare. Ditto for the rules at the Joint Tax Committee that underestimate the impact of tax changes on taxpayer behavior and economic growth.

If Republicans and the Tea Party are serious about limited government, especially if working under an Obama veto, they need to think structural.
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