Saturday, August 27, 2005

Joining the Fray

I want to (belatedly) jump into the discussion about Mark Satin's "Twelve-point creative-centrist agenda" - I'm sorry I haven't done so until now; blame it on the August blahs. I'm going to try to discuss one or two of Satin's proposals every couple of days, as Alan and others have been doing.

First off, let me try to offer my take on Mark's first suggestion, a balanced budget constitutional amendment. Alan quotes it here and offers his strong support, as does Tom (here). While I very much support fiscal responsibility in government (I've been yapping about pork-barrel spending for months now), I am quite leery of constitutional amendments, regardless of subject. I'd much rather the people elect fiscally responsible legislators and have them make decisions to keep the nation's fiscal house in order.

Yes, I know, you've all got bridges to sell me. I believe the ballot box is a better way to hold legislators and abetting executives accountable for overspending than making an attempt to change the constitution ... but I also recognize that American voters have not been willing to exercise their prerogative and hold pork-barrelers to account. Instead, they re-elect them.

As Alan says, centrists must be the voice of fiscal sanity today, since both political parties have pretty much abandoned it. We have much work to do to convince other Americans, of all political stripes, that supporting truly fiscally responsible candidates (and then holding them accountable once they're elected) is the best way to combat not only pork-barrel spending, but also irresponsible tax and deficit spending policies as well.

I don't oppose the concept or the intentions of a balanced budget amendment. But I would rather see other steps taken instead, steps that don't rise to the level of amending the constitution. I outline some of the possible options for pork-fighting here - other specific steps would need to be implemented (and then stuck too!) in regard to tax policy and annual budgeting (triggers, "pay as you go" rules, etc.). What these require is the election of fiscally sane representatives and executives who will enforce rules and not spend like drunken sailors while continually calling for ever more tax cuts at the same time. Is that too much to ask?

We have much work to do to persuade the American people that fiscal responsibility is better than the current trend. But somebody's got to say it.


At 10:24 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

The problem I see with "leaving it to the voters" is that most voters reward representatives who bring home the pork. What district doesn't want millions in federal spending (even if it's uneeded?).

While I am one who often preaches the "let the voters decide" mantra, I also think what makes our system great is that, when something fails to function well under normal circumstances, we can change the circumstances via a Constitutional amendment.

While I certainly don't think a balanced budget amendment is the ONLY way to get the fiscal situation of the nation under control, I do think it can be a significant help. Right now it's kind of hard to tell people to "vote the bum out" because he just secured millions in federal funds for the district. It's a lot easier to say "vote the bum out" because he's trying to violate the Constitution.


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