Monthly Archives: September 1995

Let’s Draw the Line at $5 Trillion

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Every now and then in politics, there comes a psychologically important moment. Some are satisfying, like our bicentennial in 1976. Others are less so, like the time a few years ago when our national debt surpassed the one trillion dollar mark. If that one made us nervous, the moment that is coming upon us this month should make us shrink in terror. For if we let it happen, in September the US Congress will authorize pushing the national debt beyond the five trillion dollar mark.

At any given time, there is always some legal limit to the national debt. Since the debt has been growing out of control for decades, it periodically grows up to the legal limit. Whenever that happens, Congress has the choice of controlling their spending to prevent further growth of the debt, or increasing the legal limit, or “debt ceiling.” So far, Congress has always chosen to increase the ceiling.

In September, we are again faced with the choice: do we cut federal spending at least enough to stop adding to the debt; or do we allow the government to continue its uncontrolled spending and growth? This time, the limit is five trillion dollars. The current debt is 4.9 trillion dollars. I say that five trillion dollars is enough: let’s draw the line right here. Let’s put our Senators and Representative on notice that we expect them to vote against any increase in the federal debt ceiling.

Naturally, at any suggestion that we stop raising the debt ceiling, defenders of big government pour out of every crack in the woodwork. We are “irresponsible” even to think about such an action. Why, it would shut down the government to cut it off at five trillion dollars of debt! What a disaster!

The plain fact is that “only” about ten percent of the government is funded by debt. So only ten percent of the government would be “shut down” by cutting off that debt. Would you call that a disaster? It might be a crisis; but after all, Congress seems to prefer letting problems grow to crisis proportions before acting on them. Maybe this crisis is just what they need to get moving on the debt problem.

Conservatives are always accused of being simplistic. Okay, here is a simplistic suggestion for dealing with this situation. First, remove Social Security from the revenue and spending sides of the budget. That is a problem that should be dealt with separately, after careful planning. It need not complicate the debt question that we face right now. Second, cut the remainder of the spending side of the budget, across the board, by ten or whatever percent is needed to avoid violating the debt ceiling. Finally, reshuffle spending priorities for the ninety percent or so that is left.

It is time to stop dancing around the debt problem. If we let Congress go beyond five trillion, then ten trillion will be just around the corner. Sooner or later, we will reach the point where the interest on the debt will consume all of our tax dollars. Where will Congress’ favorite boondoggles be then? Unfortunately, at that point, we won’t be able to spend anything: Constitutionally authorized or not.

There isn’t much time to act on this. Congress could vote to increase the debt ceiling any day now. It is important that we all contact our Senators and Representative today, urging them to vote against any increase in the debt ceiling. This problem isn’t going to be easier to solve at the ten trillion or fifty trillion dollar level. Let’s put a stop to the growth of federal debt in September, 1995.

Which Republican Future? Part 3: Can Americans Do Without Big Brother?

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In Parts 1 and 2 of this column, I proposed that there are three basic pressures for the Republicans in Congress to merely fine-tune socialism, instead of reducing the federal government to a Constitutionally limited size and reach. We have already discussed the misplaced loyalty to party leaders, and fear of the extremist label, as such pressures. We will conclude by covering the third pressure: fear that the dependence of Americans on government is irreversible.

Republicans in Congress are naturally afraid that Americans aren’t really serious about bringing government under control. That they will put the Democrats back in control of Congress if Republicans do what is necessary to restore our government to its Constitutional footing. It is a truism that everyone wants to cut the cost of government; just don’t cut my program. That is simply a fact of our fallen human nature, that can be overcome only by good character, coupled with at least a basic understanding of economics and Constitutional principles.

A political party can do little about the good character part, other than trying hard to recruit candidates that people of good character would be willing to rally around. The peoples’ character is determined largely by their commitment to their religious principles. As individuals, we need to do what we can to foster a revival of Americans’ religious commitment, primarily for the sakes of their souls, but also for the sake of our country.

A political party can do much, on the other hand, to educate opinion molders among the people about basic economics and Constitutional principles. Republican office holders are in a position to influence public school curricula and textbook selection. Republican office seekers have a soapbox every few years that they could use to propagate principles instead of making promises. Between elections, those campaign volunteers could keep themselves busy distributing literature and conducting other educational activities. Would such an educational effort succeed? There are signs that the American people are already listening to this message. Remember the way they voted in November. We can’t be sure that such education will succeed, but I am convinced that a majority of Americans will make the wrong choices without it.

In summary, I think many of the people and some of the Republicans they have elected are on the right track. Most of our legislators have been too susceptible to pressures to fine-tune socialism instead of restoring the Constitution to its rightful place. Our legislators need to be faithful to their oath to uphold the Constitution, even when it conflicts with their loyalty to congressional or other party leaders who may have gone astray. They need to tough it out and stick to principles when people start applying that “extremist” label to them. They need to wean Americans from dependency on tax dollars as fast as possible.

As a party, Republicans need to reaffirm their commitment to the Constitution. They need to educate the public about basic economics and Constitutional principles at every opportunity. Finally, they need to keep their officeholders’ feet to the fire regarding their support for those principles. If Republicans will do these things, I am confident that God will grant their party and our nation a healthy start on our next century.

Which Republican Future? Part 2: Don’t be Afraid of the Extremist Label

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In Part 1 of this column, I proposed that there are three basic pressures for the Republicans in Congress to merely fine-tune socialism, instead of reducing the federal government to a Constitutionally limited size and reach. We discussed the misplaced loyalty to party leaders as one pressure. This time we will cover the second pressure: fear of the “extremist” label.

The extremist label has been used with devastating effectiveness against Conservatives for many years. It will continue to be a danger as long as the left has so much control over the major news media. Step too far aside from the socialist path, and suddenly you are a right-wing extremist, an isolationist, one who lacks “tolerance” or the willingness to “compromise.” You are practicing the “politics of hate.”

Back when I was in eighth grade up in LaPorte, Indiana, I remember watching the Republican Convention on TV. In his nomination acceptance speech, Barry Goldwater made a ringing proclamation: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the defense of liberty is no virtue.”

Over the years, Goldwater has gradually parted ways with the movement that he symbolized; but his proclamation endures to encourage American patriots yet today. Does that mean that we should strive to live up to the name “extremist,” and avoid the appearance of “moderation” at all costs? I don’t think so.

It means that defenders of liberty should be prepared to be called extremists by those who don’t understand or value liberty. We should be sure that what we do in defense of liberty conforms to God’s will; that it is based on truth, reason, and a sincere regard for the God-given rights of every human being. When we are satisfied with these things, we should shrug off the extremist label for the demagoguery that it is, and go about our business of defending liberty. In the words of Davy Crockett, “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”

My dictionary defines an extremist as one who holds extreme ideas or proposes extreme actions. I don’t think that is an especially useful definition. The word “extreme” represents a concept that can only be understood in relative terms. The prophet Elijah held extreme ideas when he persisted in his faith in God, in the face of persecution by Ahab and Jezebel and the vast majority of his countrymen. What counted was that Elijah was right, not that his beliefs or actions deviated radically from those of the average Israelite of his day.

The same can be said for countless others who took principled stands for what was right, including the Founding Fathers who rebelled against tyranny and designed what they hoped would be a tyranny-proof federal system. Extremists? If so, let us forever be counted among them.

Just what is this “extreme” cause that so panics the Bill Clintons and the Peter Jennings? It is nothing more than the vigorous defense of the careful balance between individual rights and government power, established by our Constitution. It is zeal, or extremism, if you will, in the defense of balance, or moderation. To paraphrase Goldwater, extremism in the defense of balance is no vice; moderation in the defense of balance is no virtue. For the proper balance between the rights of individuals and the powers of government is the essence of liberty.

What about those other supposed components of extremism: isolationism, lack of tolerance, unwillingness to compromise? Our Founding Fathers were non-interventionists; if we have to endure the label of “isolationist” to follow in their footsteps, then so be it.

True tolerance consists of a harmless attitude toward those with whom we disagree on matters of conscience. It does not consist of forcing people to associate with or provide funding for those with whom they disagree. As Jefferson said, “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” To accuse Conservatives of intolerance is simply a lie. We should not let ourselves and our legislators be influenced by it.

In true compromise, each side has something to gain. Look at the compromise that was reached in the Constitutional Convention, when the states were given representation in the Senate, while the people were to be represented in the House. Everyone benefited from that compromise. The Liberals’ version of compromise is just an application of Marxist dialectical materialism. Propose an outrageous thesis; your opponent proposes an antithesis; agree on a synthesis, or “compromise” that is only half or three quarters outrageous. The Liberal side gets at least half a loaf; their opponents get nothing. Refusal to participate in such a process would be simple common sense. Calling it unwillingness to compromise is just another lie. We should not let ourselves and our legislators be influenced by that one, either.

Conservatives should be used to being tarred with the extremist brush. It’s time that we stopped being afraid of that label. I think it is even losing its effectiveness with the American people. Getting our government back under the rule of the Constitution is simply too important to let our fragile egos get in the way. The Republican majority in Congress should steel themselves to the Liberals’ slander and get the job done.