Most students in 2011 don’t know that Congress has been trying to control its spending for 30 years, and that there have been some successes.
The February 17th Wall Street Journal piece entitled “For Congress, a History of Effort to Enforce Budgetary Restraint” is a good starting point.
Interestingly, it asserts the most success to the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990. This is interesting because in 1988 Vice President Bush ran a successful campaign for President around the slogan “No New Taxes”. This act was bundled with others as part of the larger “omnibus” bill that included the tax increases that encouraged people not to vote for Bush’s reelection in 1992 because he reneged on his promise.