Jewish World Review July 22 2011 / 20 Tamuz, 5771
No Time to Go Wobbly
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "Governments don't reduce deficits by raising taxes on the people; governments reduce deficits by controlling spending and stimulating new wealth."
The temptation to spend more than a government's got can be intoxicating. (
For the moment Washington has tied itself into one grand knot rather than take the only medicine known to cure the hangover that comes after a long spending binge: Sober up and purge the system.
But the president and his party want to keep on taxing (just the rich, you understand) and spending (just on sacred cows like
As for the opposition, it doesn't have the votes to pass a balanced budget all by itself.
Result: Stalemate. It happens from time to time in Washington, and every time it does, We the People are supposed to panic. Or at least be scared into taxing and spending more. Which is just how the country got into this fix.
A good belt of Old Hair of the Dog will fix us right up, we're assured. And there will always be those who believe it. It's a lot easier than changing our ways.
This ploy is constitutionally dubious -- can
Republicans in the House have their own way of avoiding responsibility. They've proposed a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. Anything rather than actually balance it. It's a time-honored dodge.
When the ancients found themselves in a quandary, they consulted the stars. In this country, those more interested in putting off a problem than solving it consult the Constitution to see what panaceas they can write on it like so much graffiti. It's a way to put off hard decisions rather than have to make them.
This time the stargazers have come up with a doozy of a balanced-budget amendment. It picks an arbitrary number (18 percent of the gross domestic product) as a limit on federal spending, and requires a super-majority to pass any tax increase, even in time of war, an economic depression, or some unforeseen emergency. And one will surely occur, the vagaries of history being what they are. This isn't a plan so much as an excuse for one.
Far from solving anything, this purely theoretical "solution" can't even be passed, thanks to a Democratic majority in the
At the other end of
Now the president has had a good word for the ideas put forth by the Gang of Six Again (now that
One day the president is warning that unless the debt limit is raised his way, next month's
Throughout all this drummed-up Sturm und Drang the American public has remained remarkably calm, not to say a little bored. Instead of going into Widespread Panic at all these prophecies of Imminent Doom, most Americans may only have stifled a yawn. Maybe because they've seen this movie before. Such confrontations between the legislative and executive branches are scarcely novel. For a time
This time it may not be the Republicans who blink first. And why should they? As the Iron Lady herself,
Among the endless platitudes popular with the punditry whenever such deadlocks occur is the always popular complaint that Washington is dysfunctional. Just where is that complaint supposed to lead, if anywhere? Are we all supposed to throw up our hands at this point and abandon hope for all who enter there?
On the contrary, Washington is functioning just as the Framers of the Constitution envisioned. It's called divided government. In which each branch, and even each house of
There's no need to panic. There is still a Constitution to guide us -- unexpurgated and unamended for now, thank goodness. And if these politicians can't work things out, we'll find others who will.
This country has survived far more serious challenges. A little dose of historical perspective all around would seem in order just now. As a president who took office in the midst of a real crisis,
Lest we forget, this constitutional republic was conceived and born with the threat of default on its national debt hanging over its head. But back then we had a secretary of the Treasury who was both visionary and practical, a genius named
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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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