Do-Nothing Congress Dithers on Budget as Deadline Nears

According to Bloomberg,

Congress’s latest attempt at crafting a budget plan is on track to end up the same way as others have in the past decade: with little or no agreement.

Negotiators have little chance of breaking this string of futility, even after a 16-day government shutdown in October that cost the U.S. economy $24 billion. If they do, it’ll only be to curb automatic spending cuts, including $19 billion that hits the Pentagon starting in January.

Now budget experts, labor unions and business groups are saying enough’s enough, and questioning why lawmakers can’t live within their means the way ordinary Americans do and instead lurch from one budget standoff to the next.

“It’s a stupid way to run a country,” said Maya MacGuineas, head of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a non-partisan advocacy group whose members include business leaders and former lawmakers. “Change comes from two possible things: a crisis or leadership.”

One of the co-chairmen of the campaign is Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP and the New York City mayor.

Unlike with previous budget panels, including the failed 2011 supercommittee, there are no immediate consequences if the budget conference misses its Dec. 13 deadline — the U.S. won’t default on its debt and the federal government won’t shut down for lack of funding.

The committee’s lack of progress is frustrating outside groups, especially business executives, who say congressional lawmakers’ habit of governing by crisis and temporary spending bills is hurting the economy and costing jobs.

‘Chilling Effect’

“The uncertainty has a chilling effect on job creators, households and anybody who’s trying to see around a corner,” said MacGuineas, who is also president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a fiscal advocacy group.

Congress in 2009 last passed a budget resolution, the equivalent of a household budget that sets spending parameters for the federal government.

In 2010, disagreement over how to handle the scheduled expiration of tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush prevented agreement on a budget resolution and Republicans won the House majority, creating a divided Congress.

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