Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 1999/15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
A matter of freedom
THE REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL MAJORITY is playing with fire in agreeing to meet with
President Clinton in budget negotiations. They would be better advised to submit the
remainder of their budget bills to him separately and without compromise.
My feelings will not be hurt if my advice turns out to be wrong, but I have ample
history upon which to base it.
Clinton double-crossed Congress by reneging on budget deals negotiated in closed-door
meetings in 1995 and then successfully shifted the blame to the Republicans for shutting down
the government. As a political and governmental force, they have been emasculated ever since.
They are just now beginning to recapture their collective manhood, so it is no time to
forfeit it again.
Compromise negotiations are dangerous for Republicans for political and substantive
Politically, Clinton has much less to lose than Republicans either way: by
compromising or a government shutdown. Congressional Democrats have demonstrated their
willingness to march in lockstep with him, irrespective of the issues and the shame they've
brought upon themselves. His Democratic voting constituencies are also impossible to alienate
-- because they have nowhere else to go.
The plight of the GOP is much more precarious. They have earned the distrust of their
voters by abandoning their principles in past dealings with Clinton. The era of
big-forgiveness is over.
Republicans, unlike Clinton, will be held accountable by their constituencies for
failure to adhere to spending caps. But they will not absolve themselves merely by balancing
the budget, if in doing so they capitulate to Clinton's socialistic spending priorities.
Let's be clear about something. In the words of Thomas Kahn, the Democratic staff
director of the House Budget Committee, "It's a mistake to underestimate the significance of
the fundamental philosophical differences between the parties."
It is true that both sides have agreed in principle "not to dip into the Social
Security surplus to pay for any programs." All that means is that they have agreed not to
engage in deficit spending.
Plus, Clinton still wants to raise taxes, although it appears that his insatiable
appetite for additional tobacco tax revenues is attracting little support, even among
congressional Democrats. But if we assume, for purposes of discussion, that both deficit
spending and additional taxes are off the table, we are left with one major area of
disagreement: spending priorities.
Clinton is adamant that the federal government control how education money is to be
spent: for school building improvements, to hire more teachers and reduce class sizes.
Republicans insist that this federal education money should be returned to the states in
block grants to be spent as each state sees fit.
Similarly, the president wants to use federal monies to hire more community police
The bone of contention is not about how the money should be spent but who should
decide how the monies are allocated. Republicans are not, per se, against new school
buildings or more teachers (though certain research, incidentally, suggests class size has
not been a major factor in academic performance). But they are philosophically opposed to the
federal government telling local communities how to spend education money that never should
have been taxed out of the local communities in the first place.
The federal government has no business, either as a matter of constitutional law or
sound judgment, telling states and cities how they should spend their money, whether in
education or law enforcement.
If Clinton and Congress reach an impasse on these issues, the Republicans must
explain to the people that principles even greater than education and law-
enforcement are at stake: the doctrines of federalism and popular sovereignty. This is a
matter of freedom, pure and simple. It is indispensable to the preservation of our liberties
that we remain a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
It is fine if
Clinton and his statist buddies sincerely believe we should hire more teachers and police
officers. But they should be required to take their case to the states and communities and
The conservative base of the Republican Party has been begging GOP leaders to draw a
line in the sand on these fundamental issues of freedom. Please let them hear and
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©1999, CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.