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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Dumb and Dumber

By Richard J. Klade of Gabby Geezer

For several years, I had legislative liaison responsibilities for the U.S. Forest Service in research or management areas that included the State of Utah. There was a standard saying among legislative coordinators, including those who closely observed the Washington scene, regarding long-time Senator Orrin Hatch. It went like this:

“The only political people dumber than Orrin Hatch are his staff members.”

Now the Utah Senator is again proving his mettle by proposing a Constitutional amendment to require balanced federal budgets.

Mandatory balanced budgets work to some extent at the state level, but there the stakes are quite different. Imagine a few scenarios should the feds have a strict balanced budget system:

• Floods sweep over large parts of the Ohio River Basin. Several governors ask the president to declare disaster areas in their states and provide emergency federal funding to deal with the crisis.

The President cannot comply because it is late in the budget year and the government has insufficient funds earmarked for natural disaster relief, has no surplus funds in other accounts and cannot borrow money to cope with the unforeseen disaster.

• North Korea, without warning, launches a massive missile attack on U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan. Military leaders urge immediate retaliation.

The commander in chief says, “Sorry, boys, but we’re maxed out on the defense spending budget item right now. Your actions will just have to wait until next fiscal year unless we can quickly get three-fourths of the states to change the Constitution. We’ll probably have to eliminate Social Security next year to handle the extra military funding if we can’t get a substantial tax increase passed in a hurry.”

• The State of California goes bankrupt. The governor asks Congress for emergency funding to maintain the education, law enforcement and prison systems while all the legal issues are being resolved.

Congress has no funds budgeted for such bailouts, so it decides to respond by cutting 200 billion dollars from the authorization for defense spending.

• Unprecedented forest and range fires burn huge acreages throughout the western states. The U.S. Forest Service asks Congress for a supplemental appropriation to pay for combating the blazes.

To comply with the request, Congress cuts general disaster relief funds earmarked for such things as unforeseen flooding in the midwest.

And round and round it could go. The federal government is where the buck stops when disasters strike us. That’s why the founding fathers wisely provided our government with the ability to borrow funds and said nothing about balanced budgets.

We do need to reduce the size of the national debt in the near future, but removing the ability to borrow when necessary would be sheer folly. Borrowing is necessary right now and will be for some time to keep the good ship America from sinking and sucking the rest of the world’s economies down with it.

Senator Hatch is smart enough (just barely) to know that many Americans are dumb enough to think a federal balanced budget requirement would be just peachy creamy. In reality, a balanced budget amendment would be a terrible impediment to responsible government at the national level.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Do you think that maybe,just maybe,Orrin Hatch's shirt collar is too tight and it's stopping the blood from going up to his brain?

For some reason he wears a 15 collar on a 16 neck.

Richard - I completely agree that a strict balanced budget amendment at the federal level makes no sense.

But, hopefully Sen. Hatch is trying to make a point by forcing discussion on this issue. Something must be done to slow the prolific spending and borrowing, both by us with our over-extended credit cards and second mortgages, as well as by Congress with its reckless use of its 'blank check'. Margaret Thatcher once said that, "The trouble with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money!" - Sandy

It would be less worrisome if we could think we were trending toward Socialism, that is, whatever Socialism seems to mean to a wide variety of folks in the USA at the moment..I'd throw in with Sen Hatch, not one of my favs in government, but a decent legislator, who at least can be counted on to stay on course. Margaret Thatcher, ah, she makes me happy that way back when my ancestors thought better days might be ahead for them across the seas where the "ruling class" might not be as pithy, but at least they they didn't remind you at every juncture you were not one of them. This debate is only just starting on how we stumble through this historic time and what we do about such things as balanced budgets, etc..Even amongst our little community here, we have all lived through times of trial, the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s to name but a few...we can get through this time & maybe help future "elders" get through theirs..Peace...

Sandy--I'm with you on the need to get government expenditures under control. However, I think the medicine should be taken gradually with great care rather than with meat axe approaches advocated by many now in Congress.

I'm guessing of course, but I think Sen. Hatch's motive was to pander to Tea Party activists who are numerous in Utah. Last year, they succeeded in blocking a Republican nomination renewal for Sen. Bob Bennett. I think Sen. Bennett was an outstanding legislator who often crossed the aisle to compromise on important matters.

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