In a rare move, the Senate and House cut short their Easter recess to pass landmark budget legislation this week. S. 2590, the Fix Our Outstanding Liabilities bill (F.O.O.L.), tackles a number of threats to the nation's long-term fiscal health. The bill includes the elimination of hundreds of billions of dollars in duplicative and overlapping programs, a phase out of several tax provisions benefiting influential special interest groups, and the adoption of several bi-partisan reforms to Social Security and Medicare to ensure their long-term viability. Additionally, several amendments to enhance budget transparency were successfully adopted during consideration in both chambers. Most notably, members agreed to a provision requiring the Pentagon to pass a financial audit by the end of the year, a benchmark it has repeatedly failed to achieve.
According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates, the bill will significantly stall future growth in the national debt, substantially reduce the nation's unfunded liabilities that now exceed $100 trillion, and boost economic growth.
Representative Jack Smith, a senior appropriations committee member, noted the legislation came together rather smoothly. "Much to our surprise, most of the information regarding duplication and overlap in federal programs has already been reported in detail by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). GAO, which describes itself as "an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress" has published an extensive, multi-year report of federal programs that identify significant areas of overlap that cost taxpayers hundred of billions of dollars annually. Smith also remarked on the tax reforms, "it turns out that these special interest provisions shift the tax burden from the well connected to average taxpayer. When that was brought to our attention, I really don't think we had any other option but to act."
A senior leadership aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to do so, claimed the legislation might have unexpected political benefit. "There is some talk that putting the nation's long term health ahead of the next election could give the appearance of leadership. The jury is still out on this, but I'm hearing this a lot."
Happy April Fools!