The $5.8 trillion question—can that really be a budget request?

Dave Bergmeier

President Joe Biden recently submitted an estimated $5.8 trillion budget to Congress with much fanfare but like his predecessors it will be chewed up without seeing the light of day.

As with all budgets, it will be up to Congress to do the mark ups and regardless of which party is in the White House, they are universally praised by members of the same party and panned by the opposing party.

As predicted by long-time members from both parties in Congress they know the truth—the budget never gets adopted as approved. Ultimately it will be up to pundits to say a president’s budget is supposed to provide insight into what policies he favors. Biden’s budget makes many references to climate change. He is no different than his predecessors who also had favored priorities.

The president submits a budget to Congress to cover a period of Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, according to The annual budget covers three spending areas: Federal agency funding, called discretionary spending—the area Congress sets annually. Discretionary spending typically accounts for about a third of all funding. There is interest on the debt, which usually covers about 10% of all funding. The final area is the funding for Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits and other defined spending required by law and that accounts for over half of all funding.

It is noted that the federal budget can operate at deficit. In Kansas, for example, the state, county and city government budgets are required to submit a balanced spending plan. For those curious the last time the federal budget was in a surplus came in 2001 when the budget was $1.835 trillion and submitted by President Bill Clinton. His budget also called for paying off a $3.6 trillion debt by 2013. Of course, that was before 9/11, the Great Recession of 2008-09 and the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Today’s national debt is over $30 trillion.

Accordingly, a proposed $5.8 trillion budget means each American’s share is nearly $17,000 and that is mind-boggling. Talk to anyone in a coffee shop and he or she has an idea of what department should be reduced or eliminated. One would hope some of those ideas might be under consideration in light of those bleak numbers.

The federal government has more obligations than other governments as its most important task is keeping the United States safe from enemies who wish to do her harm. That responsibility means elected officials are allowed to run a federal deficit. With the cost of borrowing so cheap Uncle Sam has been able to run a pretty good credit card without repercussions.

History has shown us that when we fail to learn from the past we are on heightened alert to follow a similar path. Agriculture had its worst stretch in the 1980s as a result of runaway inflation in the late 1970s and into the early 1980s. The result was record interest rates that caused a farm crisis and devastated rural communities. The aftermath is still felt today. There are too many small farm communities, like in Spearville, Kansas, that don’t even have a grocery store. How can that happen in the heart of farm country? When a community lacks even the most important of necessities it needs leaders to help identify helpful resources.

Our hope is that Congress can take common sense ideas that can help rural Americans and her urban cousins while lowering the political temperature and reducing the bottom line cost. We shouldn’t burden future generations because of our inability to make the right decision today.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].