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Politics: Newt, Bob: Just Balance the Budget
Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich
President Abraham Lincoln
Government "of the people, by the people and for the people," presumes that ordinary citizens, like us, have the wisdom to make democracy work -- provided we know the facts.
Ah, there's the rub! For what facts did Newt Gingrich or Bob Dole share with the American people about their so-called "Contract With America," and, specifically, the lofty-sounding Balanced Budget Amendment?
Who doesn't want a balanced budget? No one I know! As with other parts of the "contract," the words sound fine -- in a vacuum.
Benefit of the Doubt?
Ordinary citizens in a representative democracy are forced to rely on those representatives to run the government; perhaps too often we give politicians the benefit of the doubt.
The men who fashioned the U.S. Constitution were extraordinary people in many respects, one being their great respect for common, ordinary folks -- which they considered themselves to be.
The Constitution they put together was, and is, a document designed to give ordinary citizens the broad principles and protections needed to maintain our democracy into the foreseeable future and, hopefully, beyond. The presidency, the judiciary and Congress were created to take care of the day-to-day operations of government.
Balance of Power
It would be great folly for Congress -- and the states (which must ratify amendments by a two-thirds vote) -- to clutter up the Constitution with amendments that thoughtlessly change the balance of power that is now finely balanced among the three branches of government.
Nor is it wise to clutter up the Constitution with rules and regulations designed to tell Congress how to do its job, which only would serve to erode the people's respect for the Constitution.
Those who think they can make political hay out of the Balanced Budget Amendment issue should keep in mind President Lincoln's words: You can't fool all of the people all of the time. Demagoguery sometimes works in the short run, but rarely does it work in the long run.
A Sea of Red Ink
The proponents of the Balanced Budget Amendment have been touting it for months, picking up support from honest people who want to see the United States do something about its $4.8 trillion sea of red ink.
Only recently did opponents begin to make their case against the amendment, and inadequately at that!
U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn caved in when the proponents accepted a change designed to keep the courts from making budget decisions; several other senators were ready to cave in if proponents would insure that Social Security trust funds would not be raided.
Of course, demagogues seeking the amendment would not accomplish their purpose if they couldn't grab the retirement money of millions of Americans to pay for their balancing act.
Shame on the opponents who would offer support for a bad idea to gain their own political ends!
Some 70 percent of the American people, according to polls, support the amendment. But it is clear their support is really for balancing the budget, not for a Constitutional amendment; support plummets when Americans find out what kind of budget cuts the amendment would bring about!
Bob Dole hopes to take the demagoguery one step further this fall by taking up the measure again during the 1996 election campaign.
You could've fooled me, Bob!