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Congressional Transparency in the Budget Process

The Congressional budget exemplifies the policy priorities of the Legislature, due to allocation and funding choices. However, Professor Lillian BeVier explains that the budget is now so enormous and complicated that the average voter cannot possibly decipher it. This breakdown between the representatives and their constituents has led to a serious lack of transparency on the part of Congress. https://youtube.com/watch?v=TwDpBz8mKRE


A principal way in which Congress is not transparent is the present budget process. It used to be the case that every agency of government had a separate budget. Every budget was voted on by Congress so that every member of Congress was held accountable for every vote on every agency. That was a lot of choices to make about how much to fund, what policies are implicit in choosing to fund or not fund or to reduce or increase funding of particular agencies. That was a big deal and an important way of making Congress' tasks transparent. What happens now is that all of the agencies' budgets are melded into one huge omnibus budget bill, the terms of which are negotiated. Indeed, it's not even transparent to the members themselves, who could possible have no idea what they are voting on. Concept called agency costs that has emerged in the understanding of corporate governance. It means that, if you're a stockholder, you're an owner, but all the important decisions are made for you by agents, namely the officers and people who work for the corporation. As a stockholder, of course, you know something about how the agents are doing by how the stock is doing, what the stock price is, but you can't know what they are doing on a day-to-day basis. Even more so is that true when you realize that the members of Congress are agents of the voters. The agency costs that are confronted by the voters, in trying to acquire information about what their legislative agents are doing, are simply enormous, unfathomable, and out of reach. They can't afford to find out. I think there's another thing to think about in this context. The national government does so much now that no voter can possibly know about any of it or all of it. You can't know all of it, and very few people know any of it. It's just too complicated. There's too much going on. That's a real problem with transparency. It's a real problem because it leads to almost complete lack of transparency.

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