The Virtuous Obsession: Budget Skunks and Julie Andrews

November 18, 2014

15756785256_969c3551ab_z (1)You’re probably wondering what skunks and Julie Andrews have to do with President Calvin Coolidge. For those of you who were able to attend our conference on Capitol Hill entitled “The Virtuous Obsession: How Better Budget Law is Key to Meeting our Nation’s Fiscal Challenges,” you’ll remember the stuffed toy skunk former Congressional Budget Office Director June O’Neill brought as a prop. This skunk was given to Dr. O’Neill when she became CBO director in 1995 by her immediate predecessor, Robert Reischauer. The skunk was to serve as a constant reminder that the CBO’s role was to provide, as far as possible, an accurate picture of the fiscal impact of proposed legislation, no matter the consequences for the two major parties.

Now you’re likely asking yourself what in the world Julie Andrews has to do with the Federal budget process. Well, in his keynote address, honorary co-host Senator Jeff Sessions, the presumptive new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee in the 114th Congress, referred to the famed British actress as one of his favorite economists. Why? A line from the famous Andrews film The Sound of Music: “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.” That is to say, when it comes to budgeting, we must be sure to not spend money we don’t have.

Sen. Sessions praised President Coolidge many times in his keynote speech, saying “The legacy of President Calvin Coolidge points the way forward,” and quoting Coolidge at length in regard to Coolidge’s belief that budgeting is the noblest of virtues. Sen. Sessions sounded much like Coolidge in other areas of his speech as well, saying a top goal for him “is to impose financial discipline on every single agency of this government,” and stressing, “we have to be consistent about it.”

Our conference featured a vast array of impressive bipartisan experts on the budget process. They provided tremendous insight into the nuances and history of the Federal budget process. They also offered a number of innovative solutions to make the process work better for the American people and ultimately put our country on a more sound fiscal trajectory, in line with the spirit of President Calvin Coolidge. You can find the conference agenda on our website.

Video of the conference panel sessions can be found on our blog.

Be sure to check out a few of the news clippings related to the Budget Conference:

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