The above outlines of different budgetary systems has been given to indicate the tendency toward a systematic procedure in arriving at expenditures and revenues. The same tendency exists in many other countries. In the United States, however, as a brief historical review of our fiscal system will show, the development has been away from systematic estimates of revenues and expenditures.
Ideas of Early Officials. - The evidence is strong that the founders and early leaders of our government had in mind the establishment of a fiscal system very similar to the one used in England. Under the government by the Articles of Confederation, committees were appointed for the purpose of making estimates of the expenditures. From what can be gathered from the debates over framing the Constitution, it appears certain that some such system as the English was intended to be incorporated in our basic law. The Constitution includes in the duties of the President, "to give Congress information on the state of the Union, and to recommend to its consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." The people, moreover, are given control over the Federal revenues and expenditures. This safeguard is shown in such provisions as the following: "No money shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law." "All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments.'' "A regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time." While all the details of the fiscal machinery were left to be provided by statute or custom, it seems probable that some such arrangement as was used in England was anticipated.
At the very beginning the House of Representatives went into a committee of the whole, where revenue measures were discussed, which corresponded to the English method of considering such measures. The relation of the Treasury Department to Congress was made very close, and the law which established the department made it the duty of the Secretary "to prepare and report estimates of the public revenue and the public expenditures." Somewhat later an Act imposed upon the Secretary the duties of digesting, preparing, and laying before Congress at the beginning of each session a report containing estimates of revenue and expenditures, as well as plans for increasing the revenues. The intense political feeling kept these plans from being fully realized, while the President neither insisted upon any constitutional right to present administrative proposals, nor accepted the responsibility for doing so.
Modification of Early Plans. - It was not long after the beginning of the government that important modifications began to be made. In 1796 the Ways and Means Committee was established in the House of Representatives, with the right to initiate fiscal legislation. Little administrative initiative existed after the administration of J. Q. Adams. The Cabinet members were barred from holding seats in Congress. Real disintegration of authority began in 1865, when the Committee on Appropriations was appointed, with the power to initiate all expenditure bills. This action gave the power over revenues and expenditures to two separate committees. In 1880 the power of this committee was curtailed when the Committee on Agricultural Appropriations was formed, and still further reduced when the Rivers and Harbors Committee was created a few years later. Further disintegration has continued to the present, until no semblance of centralized responsibility remains.
The Senate, moreover, has so developed its power that it practically rewrites revenue bills which come to it from the House. Decentralization of authority, moreover, has taken place in the Senate, until fiscal bills are acted upon by a number of committees that function independently of the other Senate committees, and of the House committees. The trend in the United States, then, has been toward a decentralization of the fiscal machinery - the opposite of the development in other countries.