The Executive Budget in the Federal Government: The First Century and Beyond


Roy T. Meyers is a professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is the author of the Brownlow Prize–winning book Strategic Budgeting (University of Michigan Press, 1994) and the editor of Handbook of Government Budgeting (Jossey-Bass, 1999). He last wrote for PAR on “The ‘Ball of Confusion’ in Federal Budgeting.” His current research focuses on priority setting and transparency reforms.

Irene S. Rubin is professor emerita of political science and public administration at Northern Illinois University. She has written extensively on the politics of budgeting, including Balancing the Federal Budget: Trimming the Herds or Eating the Seed Corn? (CQ Press, 2002) and The Politics of Public Budgeting: Getting and Spending, Borrowing and Balancing (6th ed., CQ Press, 2010). Recent articles include “Budgeting During the Bush Administration” in Public Budgeting and Finance and “The Great Unraveling: Federal Budgeting, 1998–2006” in PAR.


This article reviews the history of executive budgeting in the United States a century after President William Howard Taft's Economy and Efficiency Commission proposed an executive budget. This history, the authors argue, does not suggest that giving more budget power to the president will improve budget outcomes. Instead, what is needed is more cooperation between the branches of government and a better-educated public—goals that were shared by budget reformers when the Taft report was published.