Unified Budget Accounting in the United States Congress: The Persistence of Government Deficits & Debt, 1967-2010

The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics: Vol. 9: Iss. 4 (2011)


The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 represented a bipartisan effort to contain unsustainable spending and restore fiscal discipline. Yet an examination of one aspect of the congressional budget process will demonstrate that it has all too often failed to contain the accumulation of government debt and impose fiscal discipline. This article argues that contrary to its intended design, the congressional budget process does not force a fundamental reevaluation of federal commitments during times of budgetary crisis. It demonstrates the ways in which the budget process allows senators of both political parties to avoid balancing the obligations of the federal government with the resources it commands when making politically difficult decisions. In its examination of the congressional budget process, the article highlights the potential role political scientists can play in formulating procedures that can meet the future challenges presented by persistent budgetary deficits.