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Mandatory vs. Discretionary Spending

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  • Mandatory vs. Discretionary Spending

    Mandatory
    1. authoritatively ordered; obligatory; compulsory.

    Discretionary
    1. left to discretion : exercised at one's own discretion.



    How did we come up with the concept that defense spending which is a Constitutional duty is discretionary while at the same time, we call food stamps, welfare and other entitlement spending mandatory even though there is no such direction for those to be funded or even offered in the Constitution or Bill of Rights?

    Just curious.

    If we are going to use the definitions, wouldn’t defense spending be mandatory and food stamps, earned income tax credits, supplemental social security, food and nutrition assistance programs (which fall under Other Mandatory Spending) be discretionary?
    "Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince" - Unknown Author
    ______________________________________________

    "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves." - Thomas Jefferson
    ______________________________________________

    “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” - John Adams

  • #2
    Because there is discretion in how much we want to spend on things like the military.

    However we have no choice but spend x amount on our laundry list of entitlement programs. Which is something like 90 percent of the money brought in by the fed via taxes.
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    • #3
      I agree that Congress can decide on the amount of defense spending, but they can not totally unfund it because it's mandatory.

      Who says we have no choice on the funding levels of entitlement programs. If we are saying military spending which is required by the Constitution is discretionary, how can food stamp funding which is not required Constitutionally be mandatory?

      Our federal government has undertaken responsibilities that are constitutionally beyond its reach. However, there is a constitutionally mandated and primary obligation of government to keeping Americans safe. The duty to “provide for the common defense” is right there in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. If any program can stand on its constitutional merit, it is defense.
      Last edited by FNA209; 03-08-2011, 11:10 PM.
      "Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince" - Unknown Author
      ______________________________________________

      "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves." - Thomas Jefferson
      ______________________________________________

      “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” - John Adams

      Comment


      • #4
        We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[note 1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

        That preamble can say anything you want it too. Some people would say that social security, medicare and medicade and really all welfare programs falls under "promoting the general welfare".
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        • #5
          Originally posted by Wikipedia
          Discretionary spending

          Discretionary spending requires an annual appropriation bill, which is a piece of legislation. Discretionary spending is typically set by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and their various subcommittees. Since the spending is typically for a fixed period (usually a year), it is said to be under the discretion of the Congress. Some appropriations last for more than one year (see Appropriation bill for details). In particular, multi-year appropriations are often used for housing programs and military procurement programs.

          There are currently 12 appropriation bills that must be passed each fiscal year in order for continued discretionary spending to occur. The subject of each appropriations bill corresponds to the jurisdiction of the respective House and Senate appropriation subcommittees:
          Agriculture
          Commerce, Justice and Science
          Defense
          Energy and Water
          Financial Services
          Homeland Security
          Interior and Environment
          Labor, Health and Education
          Legislative Branch
          Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
          State and Foreign Operations
          Transportation, Housing and Urban Development

          A continuing resolution is often passed if an appropriations bill has not been signed into law by the end of the fiscal year.

          Mandatory spending

          Direct spending, also known as mandatory spending, refers to spending enacted by law, but not dependent on an annual or periodic appropriation bill. Most mandatory spending consists of entitlement programs such as Social Security benefits, Medicare, and Medicaid. These programs are called "entitlements" because individuals satisfying given eligibility requirements set by past legislation are entitled to Federal government benefits or services. Many other expenses, such as salaries of Federal judges, are mandatory, but account for a relatively small share of federal spending. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates costs of mandatory spending programs on a regular basis[citation needed]. Congress can affect spending on entitlement programs by changing eligibility requirements or the structure of programs. Certain entitlement programs, because the language authorizing them are included in appropriation bills, are termed "appropriated entitlements." This is a convention rather than a substantive distinction, since the programs, such as Food Stamps, would continue to be funded even were the appropriation bill to be vetoed or otherwise not enacted.
          I wouldn't read into the wording too much.

          Welfare describes some mandatory spending, but the majority of mandatory spending is in social security and medicare, which people have paid into seperate from their federal income tax.

          As such, woe be the politician who nixes those entitlement programs. Point being, congress could, if it desired, severely curtail mandatory spending; it just won't because politicians like to be re-elected.

          I think the term mandatory might be used because once congress passes a law providing a benefit, anyone who is eligable is required by law to receive that benefit.

          For example. Food stamp benefit is 200 per month. If 1 million people are eligible, the government is mandated to pay 200 million dollars. If 2 million people are eligible, the government is mandated to pay 400 million dollars.

          Government could raise or lower the benefit, but it wouldn't have much control over how many people are eligible beyond changing the eligibility requirement (but that must pass constitutional muster in regards to equal protection and due process both substantative and procedural).
          Last edited by zr5667; 03-08-2011, 11:24 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by -Erik- View Post

            That preamble can say anything you want it too. Some people would say that social security, medicare and medicade and really all welfare programs falls under "promoting the general welfare".
            I agree about reading too much into the Preamble. But Article 1, Section 8 further defines the defense spending. There are 18 clear cut duties for Congress to do. Two of those are:

            To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

            To provide and maintain a Navy;


            Again, using the definition of mandatory, I'd say it is the duty of Congress to spend money on defense. None of those 18 duties mandates Congress spend money on food stamps.
            "Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince" - Unknown Author
            ______________________________________________

            "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves." - Thomas Jefferson
            ______________________________________________

            “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” - John Adams

            Comment


            • #7
              My view.

              Mandatory:

              1. Defense (as long as it doesn't turn wasteful such as spending money on stuff the military doesn't want).
              2. Food safety and inspections (FDA)
              3. Federal LE such as FBI and border patrol
              4. NTSB/FAA/FRA
              5. EPA because some cities are enveloped in smog and trash is a major issue although the EPA can be downsized a bit
              6. NASA (paramount for aviation safety research and other scientific research)
              7. Social Security


              Discretionary:

              1. Welfare, paid only to those who are drug tested and they must provide solid evidence of real effort in looking for work
              2. Food Stamps, required but proof must be shown by persons obtaining them that proves that they are not abusing them
              3. OSHA, Dept. of Labor both needed but OSHA does not have to go out and hunt for violations they can be reported instead
              4. Dept of education, given the abysmal educational status of our youth I wonder what is the real purpose for it
              5. Other misc social spending

              Of course each list is much longer but this is a sample for my opinion.
              Life is what you make of it

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              • #8
                Originally posted by FNA209 View Post
                I agree about reading too much into the Preamble. But Article 1, Section 8 further defines the defense spending. There are 18 clear cut duties for Congress to do. Two of those are:

                To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

                To provide and maintain a Navy;


                Again, using the definition of mandatory, I'd say it is the duty of Congress to spend money on defense. None of those 18 duties mandates Congress spend money on food stamps.
                Also doesn't say anything about an Air Force.... so I guess we nix that also?

                strict Constitutional interpretation is not a realistic argument

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by dlo View Post
                  Also doesn't say anything about an Air Force.... so I guess we nix that also?

                  strict Constitutional interpretation is not a realistic argument
                  ummm..ok, get rid of the Air Force, don't really need them. Give it back to the army or leave it to the navy. It would save a ton of money
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                  • #10
                    Yeah, we did okay with the Army Air Corps back when, didn't we?

                    After all, all of those B-24 that were manned and driven by Army guys in WWII did okay.

                    There wasn't an Air Force until 1947. Maybe someone should have questioned the constitutional issues around funding of it back then?
                    "Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince" - Unknown Author
                    ______________________________________________

                    "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves." - Thomas Jefferson
                    ______________________________________________

                    “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” - John Adams

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dlo View Post

                      strict Constitutional interpretation is not a realistic argument
                      Especially when it goes counter to progressive beliefs.

                      Try answering the OP. What part of the definition of mandatory applies to the budgets we call mandatory spending and how did we ever say defense spending is not.
                      Last edited by FNA209; 03-09-2011, 09:29 AM.
                      "Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince" - Unknown Author
                      ______________________________________________

                      "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves." - Thomas Jefferson
                      ______________________________________________

                      “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” - John Adams

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Once again, you guys are reading too much into the words.

                        Mandatory spending may be cut or completely removed, just like discretionary spending.

                        The difference is in the legislation - mandatory spending does not need an annual appropriations bill like discretionary spending does. That's really about it.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by zr5667 View Post
                          Once again, you guys are reading too much into the words.

                          Mandatory spending may be cut or completely removed, just like discretionary spending.

                          The difference is in the legislation - mandatory spending does not need an annual appropriations bill like discretionary spending does. That's really about it.
                          Pretty sure it does require appropriaton bill...does not require full on debate.
                          A Veteran is someone who at one point in their life wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America, for an amount up to, and including their life. That is honor, and there are way too many people in this country today, who no longer understand that fact!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ray8285 View Post
                            Pretty sure it does require appropriaton bill...does not require full on debate.
                            I don't think so; funding for mandatory spending is required until the law providing the basis for the mandatory spending is changed.

                            This is why mandatory funding is not factored into the budget - because until the law itself is changed, the congress can't change how much funding the programs receive.

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