The Public Interest

The Budget Watchers

Robert D. Behn

Spring 1983

THE federal budget is the biggest political game around. Senators and Representatives compete with each other to get on the budget committees. The budget director’s name is a household word. Newspapers print budget stories on their front pages (with some publications even distinguishing between outlays and budget authority). Wall Street, according to some, responded negatively to the latest prediction of an increase in the budget deficit-and positively to an increase in taxes. The federal budget is not just a political phenomenon but also a cultural one about which The New Yorker prints cartoons, the Congressional Budget Office keeps a scorecard, friends argue, politicians pontificate, Johnny Carson tells jokes-and scholars write books.

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