2012 budget: Got to admit that things are getting better
Stan Collender remembers the bad, old days:
The weekend before the president's budget was released used to be a horror for those of us who either were involved in the debate or had to follow what was happening for some other reason.
In the dark ages when I first got to Washington, a hard copy embargoed edition of the budget was distributed to House and Senate offices, the media, and interest groups on Friday. You could read and analyze it, but you weren't allowed to publish a story, release an analysis, or make a public statement until the embargo was lifted on Monday morning around 8 am. And because there were five documents that made up the president's budget (the actual number varied from administration to administration and year to year), you had to spend the whole weekend reading, underlining, taking notes in the margin, etc. Until the NFL added a bye week to its schedule, that typically was Super Bowl weekend and it was no fun at all even for a budget geek like me. I have vivid memories of looking at the five books stacked on top of my desk at home while the Redskins were playing and feeling strongly pulled in two directions (Note: I watched the game).
What made matters even worse was that, other than a table of contents and a very limited index, there was no way to know where what you were looking for would be in the budget. Administrations have great discretion on where information should go and there were years (especially when Dick Darman was OMB director) when you literally had to look through every page of every document to find what you needed and make sure that something relevant wasn't buried elsewhere.
Fast forward to today. The Friday night distribution of the budget documents no longer happens so this is no longer a lost weekend. Even better, it won't take me two-plus long days to find what I'm looking for because the budget is now distributed electronically and will be in a PDF format that will allow me to search for exactly what I need to find.