Friday, October 04, 2013

Synthesis fails, stuck with thesis and antithesis

I've been mulling over this whole "essential" versus "non-essential" distinction that comes up whenever there is a government shutdown. Expenditures deemed "essential" are funded even if Congress doesn't pass budgetary authorization to fund them. Expenditures deemed "non-essential" are not, and thus are subject to a shutdown like we are in now.

So if the government can pay for some stuff without appropriating funds, why can't it just do whatever it does for "essential" expenditures for everything else? It's like that old joke where the jokester notes that the black box in aircraft are made out of some material designed to survive plane crashes and then asks why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff.

Anyway, it was only after reading this that I understood why the government can get away with spending money on "essential" things even if Congress has not authorized it in a budget resolution. In essence, Congress has already pre-authorized expenditures for expenses necessary to protect human life or property (or rather, it has exempted those expenditures from the requirement that expenditures be specifically authorized in the budgetary process). So that's why the government can't just make everything out of the stuff they make that black box.