Skip to main content

Is it time for a balanced budget amendment?

That's the Scripps Howard column topic this week. Ben and I note: "The current proposal -- introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., -- would require the government to spend no more than it takes in, but it doesn't stop there. It would limit government expenditures to 18 percent of the gross domestic product, and require a two-thirds majority of Congress to approve any tax increase. The government could depart from those guidelines only when the country is at war."

My take:
Tea Partiers and conservatives make a big show of their fealty to the Founders, but the proposed balanced budget amendment is a big slap in the face of Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton, after all, urged Americans to adopt the Constitution precisely because it gave Congress unlimited power of taxation.

Limiting that power, he said, would leave the central government weak and toothless, unable to provide for the common good. He knew what he was talking about -- the Articles of Confederation that previously governed the country so restricted Congress' taxing power that it was unable to pay America's Revolutionary War debts.

"The federal government," Hamilton wrote in Federalist 31, "must of necessity be invested with an unqualified power of taxation in the ordinary modes."

He added: "How is it possible that a government half supplied and always necessitous, can fulfill the purposes of its institution, can provide for the security, advance the prosperity, or support the reputation of the commonwealth? How can it ever possess either energy or stability, dignity or credit, confidence at home or respectability abroad? ... How can it undertake or execute any liberal or enlarged plans of public good?"

Somebody should run these questions past the GOP, which seems not to care these days about the "dignity or credit" of the federal government. If Hamilton was right, the proposed balanced budget amendment -- which makes it virtually impossible to raise or levy new taxes -- would return America to the days of being a weak, fractious country with a weak, fractious government.

Balanced budgets are good things in times of peace and prosperity -- something Republicans forgot under George W. Bush. They can be actively harmful during wars or recessions. The proposed amendment addresses only half that equation, and is thus a danger to America's future.

The Founders knew better; too bad today's GOP doesn't.
Ben's take: He's agin' it too, but for different reasons.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Yoga

I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Interesting:
Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…