What was the problem? Well, I am just an ordinary citizen. I don’t have much expertise in money matters. What could I say others have not already said better? Well, I finally solved that problem when I contemplated Our Kids Are Counting On Us by former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Now I have something to say.
What does Walker want to do? He wants an amendment to the Constitution that requires a balanced budget.
What is the problem with an amendment to balance the budget? It doesn’t address the problem.
When we solve a problem, we must first define the problem. Does this require any special expertise? Not in this instance.
Why are we having problems controlling our national debt? Why can’t we balance the Federal Budget? We are raiding the Federal treasury. We are stealing from each other. Pointing at a man grabbing a lady’s purse and yelling “thief” requires something, but not much expertise.
I suppose we do try to hide the truth from ourselves. We have a fancy phrase for raiding the Federal treasury. We call it “redistributing the wealth.” We call the programs the programs we use to redistribute the wealth “health, education, and welfare programs.” And what is most hilarious, the greatest self deceit? We identify the spending that the Constitution authorizes as “discretionary,” and we identify spending that the Constitution does not authorize as “mandatory.” Still, these rationalizations don’t actually fool anyone.
So why wouldn’t a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution help? While it is possible the Constitution could be improved, the problem with our thievery is in us, not the law. Do thieves steal because the law is broken or because they are corrupt? Well, we are stealing from the Federal treasury, and we are doing what thieves do. We are ignoring the law. We are pretending that we are just getting what we deserve.
So what would happen if we ratified a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution? Would a balanced budget amendment address the underlying problem, redistributing the wealth? No. The focus would be on the mechanics of balancing the budget. That’s equivalent to trying to cure alcoholism by redesigning bottles so drunks cannot open them. Drunkproof bottles might create some pathetic amusement, but bootleggers would find ways around those bottles, no matter how well designed.
Similarly, so long as we remain enslaved to the desire to redistribute the wealth of others to ourselves, bootlegging politicians will find ways to buy our votes with “other people’s money.”
Let me add, that only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters. — Benjamin Franklin (letter to the Abbés Chalut and Arnaud (17 April 1787) (from here (en.m.wikiquote.org))