Working Paper on Alternative Approaches to the Federal Budget

The Federal budget today is viewed principally on a cash basis that measures priorities mainly by how much Congress spends on them in the present. It does not contain a systematic means of applying measures of program and agency performance to budgetary decisions. It does not comprehensively evaluate the full range of policies employed to achieve national goals. It does not distinguish between spending for immediate consumption and spending with longer-term benefits. Its process begins by assuming the legitimacy of the previous year’s spending levels rather than forcing Congress to justify programs in each budget cycle.

In developing a new budget process, therefore, it is useful to examine mechanisms that might address some of these shortcomings. The following discussion considers several of them.

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