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Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 1999/15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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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 reasons.

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 officers.

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 convince them.

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 respond.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
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08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
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