Alfred Regnery

As we witnessed last decade, under the leadership of Speaker Tom DeLay in the House, Republicans would speak the language of conservatism while gladly accepting earmarks for special projects “back home.” The earmark process today, while a small part of the overall budget, gives the clearest visual of how politicians are not only happy to squander your money, but how they use the system for their own re-election campaigns.

Conservatives, in the general sense, have a negative (and perhaps Hobbesian) view of human nature. We understand that man, as a fallen creature, cannot have prudence and self-reliance imposed upon him by a simple amendment. This was proven in 1933 when prohibition was repealed when it became obvious that no law would stop the consumption of alcohol. And, more recently, the Gramm-Rudman Act of 1985, a statutory mandate for balanced budgets, is only a passing thought as President Obama pushes the deficit far beyond $14.4 trillion.

A balanced budget amendment simply is not enough to put America on a corrective course. Instead, what is being proposed by Mike Lee of Utah and Jim DeMint of South Carolina, is a plan to gradually return the federal government to historical and reasonable spending levels.

The Cup, Cap, and Balance initiative does include Senator Lee’s proposed constitutional amendment for balanced budgets. But the key detail overlooked in media reports is how, learning from history, the amendment wisely avoids mandating tax increases to keep up with run-away spending, and instead requires a 2/3rds supermajority to pass a tax increase. With such a high threshold and without room for creative Washington accounting, Congress would either be forced to shrink government or go through the lengthy process of repealing a constitutional Amendment.

In addition, the proposal puts into law statuary caps in spending which bring a metaphorical sledgehammer to the federal government and will tie the hands of legislators to keep the budget on a path to make the balanced budget amendment requirements possible.

The Cut, Cap, and Balance proposal is not an easy fix or an Utopian scheme. It is about conservatives engaging today’s political process by demanding a seat at the table and producing the most conservative outcome possible. If conservatives can keep this momentum going, perhaps we will someday have the nation which Thomas Jefferson envisioned.

Alfred Regnery

Mr. Regnery is the Publisher of The American Spectator, and was previously the President and Publisher of Regnery Publishing, Inc. He is the author of Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism (Simon and Schuster, 2008).