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Life Without Texas and Kansas

if the Constitution had had a mandatory Balanced Budget clause or amendment

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, March 06, 1996.

One vote. That’s all it takes, one vote, and the Republicans are on the verge of....well, what exactly? They’ll have you believe that they’ve passed a Balanced Budget Amendment, but they won’t. They’ll have shoveled the burden to the states, which, over the next seven years, will have the joy of figuring out what a balanced budget will mean to them. It will mean financial and political death for our fifty quasi-fiefdoms, who must vote on a constitutional amendment.

In 1865, when the South finally had its attentions drawn to the fact that the constitution said We the People, not the States, the United States started out as the nation, not the nation of the founding fathers. It was a nation where the Presidency had earned permanent superiority to the Senate, whose members were then elected by state legislatures. Because of the income tax imposed to support the civil war, the Federal government started on the way to become the monster it is. Politicians in the one hundred thirty years since have found that sometimes it pays to remove power from the states, and sometimes to return it, and today they’ve decided its best to pretend to return power because We the People are stupid and ignorant of our own history and our own governmental organization. They are correct.

Like the ERA - remember the ERA? - the balanced budget amendment will loll within the pretentious corridors of state power for the required seven years, and then will fail to be passed. The reason is not high regard for the Constitution - I mean most Americans could not give two points of distinction between the Constitution and the Communist Manifesto - but simple selfishness. For if the Federal government is shackled and unable to provide services the majority of Americans expect, it’ll be the states who’ll have to increase their taxes to replicate with even less efficiency the benefits now provided. States love to leave the impression they are the hairy chested individualists that make America great. Texas and Alaska are foremost among these paragons. But both states are liars. Alaska and Texas, after subtracting all federal owned land, after subtracting from their economy all direct income from the Federal programs now pouring in, are really the size of Rhode Island.

Not surprisingly, Texas has offered up one of its more egregiously hypocritical sons, Phil Graham, to run for President. Graham and Senate Leader Bob Dole are vying for Republican Presidential honors, both pushing not only a balanced budget, but a balanced budget amendment.

If there had been a balanced budget amendment as part of the Constitution, we’d be deprived of the services of both Dole and Graham. This, because Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have had the cash to make the Louisiana Purchase, depriving us of Dole’s Kansas and the friction with Mexico that gave us Texas. Damn the luck.