MARK POPE: Government Leadership Lacking [OPINION]
Let’s start with a momentous incident from history: Ben Franklin exits Independence Hall in Philadelphia following the completion of the Declaration of Independence, and is asked by a passer-by, “So what have you given us.” To which Ole’ Ben replied, “A Republic, Madam, if you can keep it.” Keeping our government of the people, by the people, and for the people requires leadership, which here early in the 21st Century seems lacking at times.
Let’s start with local government in Lafayette. We have the Administration and the Council of Lafayette Consolidated Government seemingly working against each other, rather than working together. For example, recall that several Council members were not happy when the LCG charter amendments were dropped in their laps – written exclusively by three “other” members – and they had not been involved with working through the amendments and the accompanying “new districts” of the charter amendments. Mayor-President Robideaux, when asked his opinion about the amendments, replied: “I’ve not had time to study the amendments.” Then we had Mr. Robideaux working exclusively on a plan to contract out the management of the electric side of Lafayette Utilities System. Council members and members of the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority were not included in the deliberations. Seems apropos to say that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
Next is the state government. We have evidence – through the Legislative Auditor’s Office – that Medicaid fraud and sloppy administration is a reality here in Louisiana, costing taxpayers potentially billions of dollars in waste and fraud. Some politicians say that screening applicants to see if they are truly eligible for Medicaid is akin to “discrimination.” And the head of the La. Dept. of Health and Hospitals seems to give lip service to improper billing for services, among other administrative oversight and management issues of the Medicaid program in the Pelican State. Sure reeks of a lack of leadership to me.
Finally, the federal government and its ineptitude with the truly representative government – here we will focus on our bloated, wasteful federal budget. Government giveaways are absolutely out of control. President Trump signed the last budget deal “under protest,” and vowed to never sign a run-away budget again. Guess what – our legislators in D.C. are not doing their jobs. They don’t follow the law and the guidelines for devising a budget. The 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act lays out procedures for composing a fiscally responsible budget, but politicos on both sides of the aisle ignore the law. The 1974 Impoundment Act established several things: (1) it established the Congressional Budget Office; (2) it established “budget resolutions,” to be completed by 24 “appropriations committees” – 12 in the House and 12 in the Senate – by May 15 of each year; and (3) the budget resolutions are simply “guiding documents” required to do the detail work of establishing a budget for whatever federal government agency/department a given appropriations committee is working on.
Our irresponsible, leaderless politicians in D.C. do not do the detailed work within their committees. They lay out their budget resolutions and that is it – no line-by-line detailing of the budget as specified by the law. Then when the clock is ticking down to the budget deadline – we face one in September – they simply throw in the towel. They submit their budget resolution, devoid of details, and all the other feckless committees do the same, and the conglomeration of budget resolutions are voted on by the entire Congress as an “Omnibus Bill.” No doubt about it, they take the easy way out, and in so doing they ignore the law which established the budget process.
And here’s the kicker of the Impoundment Act: The President can request that the Congressionally-approved budget is cut by whatever amount. Congress can approve or reject the President’s request, or Congress can alter the amount requested to be cut by the President, with a simple majority vote. Since 1974, presidents have requested a paltry $76 Billion to be cut. Congress approved $25 Billion in cuts. Let’s get some leadership in D.C. and start living within our budgetary means. Oh yeah, Ronald Reagan used the Impoundment Act the most while in office, and received the most Congressional approval to cut the budget. Now that’s leadership.