The Problem of Government Spending

By Earl P. Holt III

Today, Congress enacted and President Trump signed a two-year Federal Budget (Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019) that will add an estimated $1.2 Trillion to the National Debt.

Congress has proved itself to be totally dysfunctional, as the banner headline of a recent NATIONALIST TIMES front page indicated. In only eight years of the Obama Administration, the U.S. National Debt was allowed to double to $19 Trillion. By the end of Fiscal 2019, that number will be about $22 Trillion.

Moreover, both “Democrat” and Republican majorities in both Houses rubber-stamped the irresponsible spending initiatives of the Obama Administration, such as a political slush-fund ostensibly aimed at rebuilding our deteriorating “infrastructure.” So-called “Republicans” currently in Congress appear to have learned nothing from the dismal years of the Obama Presidency.

“Swamp Creatures” in Washington have not only proved themselves incapable of spending discipline, they seem perfectly content with the status quo. Any hope of reforming the Taxing and Spending functions of Congress must be forced upon them by the Constitutional Amendment route. Moreover, any such Amendment will probably have to originate at the state level, where two-thirds of all 50 states are required to ratify a Constitutional Amendment.

Nothing short of a Balanced-Budget Constitutional Amendment will resolve the problem: There are too many incentives to spend like a teenager with a credit card, but few if any penalties for doing so. Any effective Balanced Budget Amendment would have to impose automatic spending cuts that are forced upon the President and Congress each year after they have run a Budget deficit.

After the enactment of such an Amendment, spending authorization could remain the same, or be cut a few percentage points each year following a federal deficit. These would need to be real cuts –- across-the-board — not reductions from phony “projected” spending estimates.

It would also be wise to prohibit the raising of income taxes to balance the budget in any particular year, in order to avoid returning to the insanity of high marginal tax rates that choke off an economy, such as those imposed by the “Democrats” in the late 1970s, or those imposed by a “Democrat” Congress under Obama in 2010.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1996 that Congress cannot grant the President the power of a “Line-Item Veto” — one most Governors have — because such a power intrudes on the authority of Congress. The President can Veto a bill passed by a majority of both Houses, but he may not alter its content prior to signing it into Law.

Any Amendment seriously intent on reforming the spending authority of Congress must grant Line-Item Veto authority to the President, so that much needed accountability is finally introduced into the process. (The “buck” would stop there.)

Another valuable mechanism that would generate much needed reform would be a provision requiring Term Limits for members of Congress. It should be obvious to any thinking person that the pressures of fundraising to ensure their reelections tend to dominate most Congressmen, and dwarf whatever commitment they may have to honestly represent their constituents. In fact, a great deal of each Congressman’s time is spent deceiving the “folks back home” into assuming their interests are better served than they really are.

Another Provision in such an Amendment must include a requirement for “Sunset Provisions” in any spending bill. These would require Congress to reauthorize any spending initiatives every few years (three or five, for example) in order to examine their effectiveness and unintended consequences, rather than continue forever, as is now the case. Such legislation would be automatically repealed if not re-enacted by its deadline.

Congress has run out of excuses for routinely enacting staggeringly expensive spending initiatives, and then conveniently ignoring their consequences forever. A Sunset Provision in a Constitutional Amendment would make such profligacy far more difficult to perpetuate.

The Republican Party shamelessly campaigned through four Congressional Election cycles to repeal “Obama-Care,” but didn’t have the courage to make their deeds meet their rhetoric when actually given the opportunity to vote for repeal in 2017. In fact, many lied to their constituents about their support for ObamaCare.

Such “bait-and-switch” tactics are nothing new for these liars, because they employed the same technique decades earlier when also campaigning on spending reforms: However, soon thereafter, they returned to form by engaging in unparalleled spending and Federal Deficits. It is time to end their “shell games.”

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