Daily Archives: July 17, 2011

Concerns About the Proposed Balanced Budget Amendment

Virtually every conservative and Republican politician, pundit, writer, and broadcaster is enthusiastically touting the Balanced Budget Amendment proposal. If I was of a more cynical nature I might think that Congress is trying to rid itself of some of the tedious responsibility the Constitution places on it. Considering the seriousness of any proposed Constitutional Amendment, we ought to spend some time reading and understanding its implications before giving it our support.

Section I of the proposed Amendment says,

“Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless two-thirds of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts by a roll call vote.”

If you are a fan of Constitutional Amendments that sounds fine; it is concise, to the point and reasonably well worded. It does not leave a lot of “wiggle room” for the courts and politicians to avoid understanding exactly what the Amendment is supposed to accomplish.

Since the purpose of an Amendment is to change, expand, or repeal the rules for government written by the Founders into the original Constitution, before we allow ourselves to be stampeded into something future generations will have to live with and very well may regret; we ought to carefully consider the consequences. History has shown that the U.S. Constitution including the Bill of Rights is the best plan of government ever devised by man. Although, for the past century, its value has been demonstrated mostly by the consequences following its many breaches rather than by strict compliance to it by our elected officials.

The fact that so many people feel that a Constitutional Amendment is necessary is prima facie evidence that one or more of the branches of government is failing to live up to the oath of office to defend and support the Constitution each of its members took before assuming their position. We do not have to look far to identify the culprits, either. Both the Legislative and Executive branches are ignoring the restrictions on taxing and spending in the original Constitution and taxing us into poverty and spending us into oblivion. Thomas Jefferson made the complaint against George III in The Declaration of Independence, that “he has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”

Jefferson knew nothing about the EPA, DOE, DOL, or any of the many czars currently accomplishing this chore for the Obama Administration, so we have to assume that he was referring in particular to the “Quartering Act” and the occupation of Boston. But he could just as well have been writing about any of “alphabet soup” of government agencies jammed into every nook and cranny of Washington, D.C.

Assuming that we really do need a Constitutional Amendment to enforce fiscal discipline on our elected officials and that they will abide by a new Amendment more faithfully than they have abided by the Constitution itself in the past, the Amendment as written above seems to be adequate for the job — if it stopped with those words. However it does not. The proposed Amendment contains 618 words making it the longest Constitutional Amendment to date.

In writing Amendments brevity is the key to effectiveness. Every unnecessary or carelessly chosen word becomes a loophole through which the courts, politicians and lawyers can push socialist policies, or that societal busybodies can use to take away a little more of our liberties. For example, the Fourteenth Amendment, containing only 445 words, is used to grant birthright citizenship to the children of foreigners who happen to be born on U.S. soil; to claim the right for same sex marriage; and, to give the federal government the authority to decide the qualifications for voting in national, state and local elections. The same pattern is true for the other ill thought-out and excessively worded amendments added to the Constitution since 1791.

Section 2, provides that…

“Total outlays for any fiscal year shall not exceed 18 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States for the calendar year ending before the beginning of such fiscal year, unless two-thirds of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific amount in excess of such 18 percent by a roll call vote.”

This may be okay for those willing to spend almost twenty percent of their work life laboring for the federal government. However, keep in mind that the federal government is only a small portion of the government bodies we have to support with our taxes. The spending limit imposed by this section is based on the aggregate GDP of all fifty states. Each of those states has hundreds of taxing and spending bodies “harassing their people and eating out their substances”. The combined outlay of all the government bodies in the United States, federal, state, county and local is much closer to 50% or more than to 20%. This section guarantees that the federal government will always be entitled to at least 18% of the produce of our labor, to spend on whatever it sees fit; more if it thinks it is necessary.

Section 3 is one of the more troubling sections of the proposed amendment. It provides that…

“Prior to each fiscal year, the President shall transmit to the Congress a proposed budget for the United States Government for that fiscal year in which—
‘‘(1) total outlays do not exceed total receipts; and
‘‘(2) total outlays do not exceed 18 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States for the calendar year ending before the beginning of such fiscal year.”

What is troubling about this section is that it puts the onus on the President to determine the budgetary needs of the country each year, wiping out a four-hundred year portion of our heritage. If History is indeed our best predictor of the future, future Presidents will claim that the Constitution (this Amendment) gives the Executive Branch the “power of the purse” overturning four hundred years of custom and Constitutional law. As we pointed out in a previous post, the power of the purse has always resided in the people’s assembly. Before the Constitution it rested with the colonial general assemblies. Since the Constitution it has rested in the House of Representatives.

The Remaining eight sections all contain similar opportunities for future courts and politicians to mold in into about anything they desire it to be. The piece de resistance, however, is found in section 11, which says, “This article shall take effect beginning with the fifth fiscal year beginning after its ratification.’’

It takes on average, two to five years to get an Amendment through the Amendment process. This section adds an additional five or six years, depending on the time of the year it is finally ratified, before it takes effect. By that time we will either be a socialist dictatorship or we will have won the struggle with the socialists in government and will not need the amendment.

Space prevents a complete exposition of this question. We have provided a copy of the proposed Amendment here and challenged readers to consider some of the possible pitfalls inherent in any changes to our Constitution, no matter how logical and necessary they seem at the time. As my mom used to say “eat what’s on your plate before going back for more”. Enforce adherence to the Constitution we have, before attempting to add more requirements that are likely to be ignored or circumvented when government finds such action desirable for its agenda.

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Mitch McConnell plays “Charlie Brown” on Washington Stage

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, a compromise proposal crafted by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is likely to come before the Senate for a vote this week. Under this compromise plan designed to increase the debt limit before the August 2 deadline, the President would be given the authority to raise the debt limit three times for a total increase of $2.5 trillion without Congressional approval,  in exchange for a series of budget cuts that would reduce the budget $2.5 trillion over the next ten years.

In this scenario, Mitch McConnell plays the role of the Peanuts cartoon character, “Charlie Brown” and Harry Reid plays the role of “Lucy” holding the football. The budget reductions promised over the next ten years are reminiscent of the character “Wimpy” in the old Popeye comic strip as he tells the counterman at the local diner, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”. Taking into account that the Tribune is a part of the MSM and this article comes out of their Washington News Bureau, the quotes of some conservative Republicans in Congress concerning the possibility of a last minute compromise is somewhat disconcerting.

It seems the Republican Leadership in Washington does not yet realize just how determined its conservative base is in taking back their country. By the same token, a large percentage of conservatives throughout the country do not yet realize that we are in the midst of a war between the socialists inside our government and the constitutional conservatives that make up a large part of the patriot or “tea party” movement. This war has been going on for the past 130 years and has now reached the critical stage. Make no mistake, this is a war with one side, the socialists or progressives, determined to destroy America, as we know it. Their goal is to destroy republicanism, capitalism, conservatism, the American culture and the U.S. Constitution. On the other side, the constitutional conservatives’ goal is to destroy socialism, purging it from the power structure of government and restoring the republican form of government designed by the Founders in the Constitution.

I was eleven years old when World War II ended. I did not understand at the time all the details behind the war but the one thing that made a lasting impression on me that I have never forgotten is the spirit of patriotism that permeated American society. No one would even think of compromising with the Axis Powers; the goal was to defeat them, totally and completely. The socialist in America have always understood the nature of the conflict we are engaged in and have been persistent and relentless in their attacks on the institutions of our government and culture. Conservative patriots have been on the defensive since the beginning of the socialist movement in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

In the twentieth century, the socialist seemed to have lost most of the battles fought at the ballot box, in the courts and in the halls of Washington. Conservatives were content to defend their positions policy by policy with every contest ending in a compromise giving the socialists a little more ground. We are beginning to understand that compromise with socialists is simply another name for surrender.

For their part, the socialists never concede defeat. They simply accept the compromise and move forward to the next battle while the conservatives return to the mundane world of daily life. For example, universal, state-run health care has been a goal of socialism since the 1854 Bill for the Indigent Insane, vetoed by President Franklin Pierce because the Constitution does not give Congress the power to pass national welfare legislation. The push for universal health care was taken up again by President Theodore Roosevelt in the election campaign of 1912. Roosevelt was defeated and the issue lay dormant until revived by Franklin Roosevelt. The first bill for social security included publicly funded health care programs, but Roosevelt was forced to remove them from the Social Security legislation in 1935 while he sold Social Security to the American people as “insurance” and to the courts as a “tax”.

Socialists refused to accept these expressions of the American people’s will and kept on fighting for universal health care which they finally succeeded in getting passed into law, piece by piece, beginning with Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 and culminating in the health care bill, “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” passed by the Progressive Democrats led by Barack Obama in 2010. The hundred-year socialist vs. conservative contest over universal health care showcases the nature of the ongoing war for the future of America we are now engaged in.

As Israel has been demonstrating for the past fifty years, you cannot compromise with those who are determined to destroy you. In doing so, you merely let the enemy off the hook so they can regroup and return, even stronger, and as determined as ever in their mission of destruction. America cannot afford to compromise on the upcoming debt crisis. The Reid-McConnell compromise only assures that our national debt climbs to 17 trillion dollars in the short term, and the continuation of massive deficit spending in the long term.

America is not Soviet Russia or Communist China. Five-year and ten-year plans are meaningless in American politics because promises of future actions by Congress are binding only on the sitting Congress that makes the promise. They are not binding on future Congresses. The 112th Congress can plan and promise anything. The 113th Congress can do as they please because those promises are not binding on them. The only way we are going to return to fiscal stability and a thriving economy is to simply say NO to more debt, take the consequences and start over. That may mean short-term hardships for many but it will save the country for future generations.