Will There Be A Balanced Budget?

Will last week's budget agreement finally get our fiscal house in order and deliver a balanced budget by the year 2002? We can't accurately pinpoint the future but we do know the past and on that basis come up with a fairly reliable answer to the question.

There's been one balanced budget in the last 38 years 1969). In 1979, Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act making balanced budgets the law of the land. In 1982, a "concerned" Congress enacted what was then the largest peacetime tax increase in U.S. history. President Reagan signed it on' promise that would enact $3 worth of spending cuts for every $1 increase. we got a $1.29 each one dollar Still concerned, 1985 passed Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Emergency Deficit Reduction Act. Act promised to deliver balanced budget by 1992. 1986, same next peace time sold Americans as "down payment deficit. 1990, with then-President Bush's help, Omnibus Reconciliation - 1990 Deal. mandated record $164 billion promises elimination; deficits increased. bottom line is has been doing rope-a-dope, dope being American people and no difference this time. >

What's the problem? Congress has the power and authority to make 1998 federal expenditures equal to 1998 federal revenues; there'd be a balanced budget. Why don't they? There are at least two important reasons. First, even though congressmen take an oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution, by their deeds, nearly the entire Congress(both Democrats and Republicans) exhibit contempt for both their oath of office and our Constitution.

Social spending constitutes at least two-thirds of federal expenditures - spending for Medicare, Medicaid, school lunches, farm and business handouts, job training, education and Social Security. It's great to want to help people, but our Constitution does not authorize Congress to do so. Their spending authority is itemized in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. A dim-witted congressmen might say, "Williams is wrong. We do have authority for those spending programs under the 'welfare clause'". Balderdash! James Madison, the father of our Constitution, said, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article in the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the object of benevolence, the money of their constituents."

We cannot lay the entire blame, not even an important share of it at the feet of Congress. American people are to blame for our fiscal mess. We elect congressmen who will use the power of their offices to take some other American's earnings to subsidize: our children's education, our farms and businesses, our retirement and medical needs and a plethora of other desires. Any congressman who'd respect, heed and obey the letter and spirit of the Constitution would not get our votes. Our hero is the congressman who exhibits the deepest contempt for the limitations of the Constitution's Article I, Section 8.

Maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe my fellow Americans think Congress is authorized to do anything that's wonderful. In that case, I'd suggest that we heed Abraham Lincoln admonishment, "Study the Constitution. Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislatures, and enforced in courts of justice." Constitutional ignorance is curable whereas constitutional contempt is hopeless.

Walter E. Williams
May 26, 1997
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