Don't Be Fooled By The Front Page

As the government works on a budget for fiscal year 2013, the press has been emphasizing the differences between the various budgets that have been proposed. The President is required to submit a yearly budget to congress and in early February he released his plan for fiscal year 2013. The Senate and House budget committees then release their own budgets, drawing from or purposely deviating from the President’s. Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his own budget last week, which is backed by House Republican leaders. The Ryan budget was touted as being in stark contrast to the President’s budget, spending less on an entitlements and transportation initiatives than the Administration’s proposal. And to further complicate onlookers, just this week House Democrats released their $3.6 trillion budget. Although the Democratic plan has no chance of passing the House, it is an important signal about how their priorities differ from House Republicans. The introduction and press around these different budgets signal disagreement and opposing priorities between the different political parties and chambers- a situation that is pretty much inherent to the 112th Congress.

Despite the press around how different the various budget proposals may be, the facts remain; every year the government will continue to spend money, there are actually many points of overlap in “competing budgets”, and the budget serves mostly as a blueprint for the various appropriation committees which allocate the actual money. In fact, if you look at side by side comparisons of the various proposals, it is possible to see where they are in agreement and where programs seem to be caught in the political crossfire. More often than not, you can predict what programs are in jeopardy by reading the proposals and engaging with relevant leaders who are involved with the appropriations process. While the budget process may be a highly politicized procedure, programs will continue to be funded and areas of agreement will remain, despite the many media reports suggesting otherwise.

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