Federal Budget

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What are the strengths and weaknesses of federal government budgeting?

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One strength of the federal government's budgeting process is that the federal government has enormous spending and borrowing power. In other words, the federal government has very deep pockets and is capable of funding massive initiatives backed by sovereign debt. Another strength is related to the process that the budget goes through in order to get passed. It reflects the input of a massive array of experts, having been debated in each federal agency and department. It is the subject of review by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and after proposal, various aspects of the budget are addressed in committees, who in turn summon experts to comment. In short, by the time a budget is enacted by Congress, it has been debated and discussed in excruciating detail.

At the same time, a downfall of the budget process is that it is always subject to political horse-trading. In fact, especially in Congress, the entire process can be held up by political maneuvering on a single aspect of the budget. For example, in recent years the federal budget has more than once been slowed down by threats to defund Planned Parenthood, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a border wall, each of which was a single item in the budget. The nature of the process also lends itself to earmarks and so-called "pork barrel" spending, but this can be seen as a virtue as well, inasmuch as it allows for representatives to secure funding for local projects.

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The major strength of the federal budget process is that it is very democratic.  Many people, both inside and outside of government, have the chance to influence various aspects of the budget.  It must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president.  This is a great deal of democracy.

The major weakness of the process is that it gives too many people the ability to add “pork” to the budget.  It is easier to add things to the budget (thereby making one group or another happy) than to take them out (making some group very angry and not really pleasing anyone very much). 

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