It is central to a free society that every man owns his own soul. Thus the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion.
A free society must not live in fear of the state: hence the Second Amendment.
We do not trust democracy or the separation of powers to protect freedom of religion or of the press, or the right to keep and bear arms. In those cases, the Constitution was specifically amended to highlight the danger and protect us.
Then where in the U.S. Constitution, designed primarily to limit the power and scope of the federal government, is there a limit to the size and cost of the state?
Did everyone in Philadelphia just assume this was understood? Sort of the way they forgot to mention property rights—because everyone assumed they were assumed?
For at least 30 years now, conservatives have been working to enact a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to the federal Constitution to prohibit or limit Congress’s ability to borrow money.
In 1975, the National Taxpayers Union, founded by James Dale Davidson and William Bonner, despaired of two-thirds of the 435 congressmen and two-thirds of the 100 senators actually passing a BBA and sending it out to be ratified by the required three-fourths of the states. Instead, NTU began a drive to exercise the portion of Article V of the Constitution that allows two-thirds (34) of the state legislatures to call for a constitutional convention to propose an amendment that would then become part of the Constitution only when ratified by three-quarters (38) of the states. Such a maneuver has never been successful in the history of the U.S.
NTU reasoned that the problem was Congress’s spending, so the states would use the Constitution’s second method of amending itself to bypass Congress entirely.
It was a close run thing. Thirty-two states did eventually enact convention calls for the sole purpose of proposing a balanced budget amendment. Understandably, labor unions poured millions into the effort to derail the convention calls. Criticism also sprang from the right: Phyllis Schlafly and the John Birch Society feared a “runaway” convention that would rewrite the entire Constitution. The effort stalled, and over time many states rescinded their convention calls.
Then, in the 1980s, liberals hijacked the language of balanced budgets. Throughout the '50s, '60s, and '70s it had been conservatives who denounced “deficit spending.” They had criticized government spending and viewed “deficit” as an intensifier. When Reagan’s tax reductions were enacted, however, the left borrowed the language of the right and cloaked their support for restoring higher tax rates as “deficit reduction.” Note the clever removal of the word “spending.” And opposition to “deficits” became the bumper sticker argument against tax cuts and for tax hikes. “Deficit Hawks” has ever since been the preferred label for tax increasers, just as abortion advocates prefer to be called “pro-choice.”
That soured the ardor for the balanced budget amendment, and it receded into the background until the 1994 Republican landslide put the BBA front and center. The promise to vote for a BBA was the first of 10 promises in the “Contract with America.”
But the freshmen who swarmed into Washington well remembered the Democrats’ misuse of the “deficit” issue to oppose tax reductions and push tax increases. They met with newly elected Speaker Gingrich and adamantly refused to vote for the BBA unless it included a two-thirds vote requirement in order to pass a tax increase bill. They felt that a simple or weak balanced budget amendment would strengthen the hand of those who would use deficit spending as a weapon to demand not spending restraint, but tax hikes.
In a 30-minute meeting, a deal was cut. The freshmen would hold their noses and vote for the weak balanced budget amendment without any limits on taxes—knowing that the Senate would never pass the amendment anyway—in return for the Speaker’s commitment that every year the House would vote on a stand-alone constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote to raise taxes.
The deal was kept. The House voted 300–132 to send the BBA to the states for ratification. The Senate failed to pass it by just one vote. The House held votes on an amendment requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote to enact any tax hike on or about April 15 throughout Gingrich’s speakership, and that commitment was also kept by his successor, Denny Hastert. That amendment garnered a majority of the House each year—but never two-thirds.
THE BBA was pushed to the fore once again this summer by the 87 freshmen Republican congressmen, many of whom demanded that a vote on a BBA be part of the debt-ceiling deal with President Obama. That vote for a BBA must take place before January 1, 2012.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?