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It's the Spending Stupid
[June 10, 2002]

By Nicholas Provenzo

It's that time of year when the old tax limitation constitutional amendment bill gets dusted off before it receives its yearly summary defeat. An expansion of the 1994 "Contract with America" provision that modified House rules to require a two-thirds vote of the House to increase taxes, this year's incarnation seeks a Constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote of both houses to impose tax increases.  An identical resolution failed in spring of 2001 to muster the necessary two-thirds majority vote to pass a constitutional amendment in the House and it's likely this year's bill will suffer a similar fate. Don't feel too bad however; for this bill fails to address Washington's real problem which is uncontrolled government spending.

The fact is the government would not need to either borrow money or tax its citizens as much if it did not spend with the abandon it does today. For all the bluster made by the supporters of this bill, the truth is all of them to a one support at least some increase in government spending. When it comes to spending, there are few dissenters in Washington.

Take, for example, just one of the bills that have been recently passed by the congress in preparation for the upcoming mid-term elections. This year's farm bill, so laden with transfer of wealth dollars it makes a pigsty look appealing was passed by a Republican House and a signed by a Republican President. With control of the White House and one house in Congress, it's the Republicans who are more of a threat on government spending that the Democrats.

The Republicans know that the mid-term elections will make or break the party and that control of both houses are in play. You would think that faced with such a challenge, the Republicans would be working all out to differentiate themselves from the Democrats by adhering to their core principles. Yet perhaps the Republicans are adhering to their principles, but they are not of the limited government variety, but of unlimited type. In a pinch, Republicans act no differently than Democrats.

In the long run, any procedural barrier on tax increases serves only as window dressing when there is not even a trace of a desire to reduce spending. The situation we face now that reminds one that it's not so much politics that is the battlefield as it is ethics. When two parties share the same premise but only differ in terms of degree, and that premise threatens to bleed Americans dry, it's time to demolish that premise. "Phony War" bills such as the tax limitation amendment are not the answer—it's finding and supporting people who can effectively communicate the proper mission of government and are willing to cut government spending.


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