The Public Interest

The receding mirage of the balanced budget

Robert D. Behn

Spring 1982

GOVERNMENT budgeting used to be simple and straightforward. If Congress wanted an agency to spend some money for a particular purpose, it appropriated the amount it thought was required and told the agency how to spend it. If that money ran out before the end of the fiscal year, the agency might go back for more, but Congress would not be required to appropriate any. Indeed, it might be a little sore at the agency for spending too much.

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