Morality and Common Sense
Walter E. Williams
by Walter E. Williams: Public
realize it or not, the last decade's path of congressional spending
is unsustainable. Spending must be reined in, but what spending
should be cut? The Republican majority in the House of Representatives
fear being booted out of office and are understandably timid. Their
rule for whom to cut appears to be: Look around to see who are the
politically weak handout recipients.
is that those cuts won't put much of a dent in overall spending.
The absolute last thing a Republican or Democrat congressmen wants
to do is to cut handouts to, and thereby anger, recipients who vote
in large numbers. To spare myself ugly mail, I'm not going to mention
that handout group, but members of Congress know of whom I speak.
More than 200
House members and 50 senators have co-sponsored a balanced budget
amendment to our Constitution. A balanced budget amendment is no
protection against the growth of government and the loss of our
liberties. Estimated federal tax revenue for 2011 is $2.2 trillion
and federal spending is $3.8 trillion leaving us with a $1.6 trillion
deficit. The budget could be balanced simply by taking more of our
earnings, making us greater congressional serfs. True protection
requires an amendment limiting congressional spending.
You say, "OK,
Williams, what would be your rule for getting our fiscal house in
order?" We need a rule that combines our Constitution with simple
morality and plain common sense. I think it immoral for Congress
to forcibly take one American's earnings and give them to another
American to whom they do not belong. If a person did the same thing
privately, he'd be convicted of theft and jailed. We might ask ourselves
whether acts that are clearly immoral and despicable when done privately
are any less so when done by Congress. Close to two-thirds of the
federal budget, so-called entitlements, represent what thieves do:
might say, "Williams, the programs that you'd cut are vital to the
welfare of our nation!" When someone says that, I always ask what
did we do before. For example, our nation went from 1787 to 1979
and during that interval produced some of the world's most highly
educated people without a Department of Education. Since the department's
creation, American primary and secondary education has become a
joke among industrialized nations.
the Department of Energy; how much energy has it produced?
From our founding
in 1787 to 1965, our nation went from a Third World status to building
the world's mightiest first-class cities such as New York, Chicago,
Los Angeles, Detroit and Philadelphia without the benefit of Department
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After HUD was created in
1965, many of our formerly great cities are in decline. No one is
saying that HUD is responsible for the decline, but neither was
HUD responsible for their rise.
is a distinct group of Americans who bear a large burden for today's
runaway government. You ask, "Who are they?" It's the so-called
"greatest generation." When those Americans were born, federal spending
as a percentage of GDP was about 3 percent, as it was from 1787
to 1920 except during war. No one denies the sacrifices made and
the true greatness of a generation of Americans who suffered through
our worse depression, conquered the meanest tyrants during World
War II and later managed to produce a level of wealth and prosperity
heretofore unknown to mankind.
But this generation
of Americans also laid the political foundation for the greatest
betrayal of our nation's core founding principle: limited federal
government exercising only constitutionally enumerated powers. It
was on their watch that the foundation was laid for today's massive
federal spending that tops 25 percent of GDP.
A good part
of that generation is still alive. Before they depart, they might
do their share to help us have a federal government exercising only
constitutionally enumerated powers.
E. Williams is the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics
at George Mason University, and a nationally syndicated columnist.
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