Thursday, December 29, 2011

Congress: Our Return In Investment

By the Bankrupting America Team: Before we spend money on something, what’s the first thing we ask ourselves? What are we getting out of this? Whether it’s a mother buying groceries for her family or an investor buying stocks, it all comes down to return on investment.

We should be asking the same thing when it comes to our tax dollars. We spend trillions of dollars funding the government every year, it’s only prudent to step back and consider what we’re getting for it. The following infographic takes a crack at this. But rather than breaking down the entire federal government, it allows you to examine if we’re getting our money’s worth from Congress.
Click  infographic To See Full Size

Did You Get Your Money’s Worth?
Another year is coming to a close, and one that was marked by Congressional battles
to lower the deficit and cut excessive government spending. What did Washington
accomplish in 2011?  Did they get anything done? Did they cut spending?

Spotlight on 2011
      • A Spending Overview
      • Legislative Accomplishments

A Spending Overview
2011 was a year marked by congressional battles over deficit reduction. In the end, we saw the downgrade of our nation’s credit rating1, and we saw the debt and deficit increase yet again during Fiscal Year 2011.

As we take a look back, here is a solid breakdown of what was taken in and what
was spent during the last fiscal year:
      • Revenue: 2.302 trillion2
      • Spending: 3.601 trillion3
      • Deficit in FY2011: $1.297 trillion4

The federal debt was directly impacted by Washington’s bloated spending, as debt
totals reached new records standing at nearly $15.129 trillion5.

Congress gets paid a lot to pass laws that keep the country running. This year, the
salaries of members Congress and their allowances broke down as follows:6
      Speaker of the House: $223,500
      House and Senate Majority and Minority Leaders and Senate President Pro Tempore: $193,400 x 5 = $967,000
      Other Representatives and Senators: $174,000 x 5357= $93.09 million

Budgets in House and Senate:8
      Average Budget for all 441 House offices (including Resident Commissioner and Delegates): $1,446,009 x 441 = $637,689,969
      Average Budget for all 100 Senate offices: $3,409,0939 x 100 = $340,909,300

Legislative Accomplishments10
But did Washington accomplish what it was paid to accomplish? This year, the number of bills cleared by Congress and the President reached significant lows. Throughout
the calendar year, just over 70 bills were signed into law, a fraction of recent year totals.
      Total bills signed into law:11
      • 2011: 70+
      • 2010: 258
      • 2009: 125
      • 2008: 285

Furthermore, the number of bills passed by either chamber also failed to reach levels comparable to recent years.
      Total measures passed by chamber12:
      • House passed (2011, as of November): 326 bills
      • House passed (2009): 970 bills
      • House passed (2007): 1,127 bills
      • Senate passed (2011, as of November): 368 bills
      • Senate passed (2009): 478 bills
      • Senate passed (2007): 621 bills

It should be clearly noted that it is impossible to measure the work of Congress based upon the number of measures passed. In some years, they pass lots of bills, buts lots of bills does not always equal sound economic policy. That being said, the number of measures passed by the House and Senate are one way to measure the productivity of Congress, but it doesn’t always tell the full story.

So what significant legislation was passed? Let’s take a glance. Highlighting 201113:
      • 13 of the 70+ bills passed named post offices or courthouses.
      • The Budget Control Act raised the debt ceiling, led to the establishment of the super committee, and laid the groundwork for the upcoming sequester.

Other significant legislation includes:14
      • Two extensions of certain Small Business Administration programs
      • Transportation extension
      • Four FAA extensions
      • A repeal of the 1099 tax reporting requirement in the health care bill
      • An extension of Patriot Act
      • Intelligence authorization
      • Three trade bills
      • A veterans’ compensation cost of living allowance

So what do you think? Did you get your money’s worth

1 Washington Post: S&P downgrades U.S. credit rating for first time. August 6, 2011.
2 CBO: Monthly Budget Review. FY2011. November 7, 2011.
3 Ibid.
4 Treasury Monthly Statement. November 2011.
5 Treasury: December 23, 2011.
6 Office of the Clerk: FAQ’s. #14.
7 Includes the Resident Commissioner and Delegates.
8 CRS: Congressional Salaries and Allowances. June 28, 2011. Pg. 3.
9 Congress passed a subsequent law that slightly reduced the Senate’s budget, but these numbers have not been updated by the Congressional Research Service.
10 All accomplishments as of December 19, 2011.
11 Government Printing Office. Public Laws; Library of Congress. Public Laws.
a) As of December 27, 2011, the Library of Congress tally’s 73 bills for 2011; this is not the final tally, however. It will likely be slightly higher.
b) For laws that were passed by Congress in one calendar year, (i.e., December 2010) but signed into law into the following year (i.e., January 2011), the law was counted when it passed Congress (i.e., 2010).
12 Washington Post: In 2011, fewer bills, fewer laws and plenty of blame. December 5, 2011.
13 Library of Congress: Public Laws.
14 Ibid.
Bankrupting America December 2011
Also posted at ARRA News Service
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