Cal  Thomas

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, defended spending an additional $7 billion for health and education programs, claiming those areas have lacked money in recent years. Is he kidding? The Bush administration has sired the biggest new entitlement program in history - a prescription drug benefit for the elderly. And let's not forget "No Child Left Behind," which massively increased federal education spending when there is no evidence of a connection between money and academic achievement.

Perhaps the real culprit is not Congress, but us. The Pew Research Center poll of March 14 found that only 55 percent of Americans rate the deficit as a "top priority." That contrasts with the 1990s when the deficit resonated more strongly with voters. As long as we are willing to take the money in exchange for our votes, politicians will give it to us. This must change, not only because we are in debt up to our eyeballs, but also because many of the note holders are, or might become, our enemies.

Means testing for all government programs and term limits for Congress are the answer to never-ending debt, but neither is likely to happen.

Reagan said his favorite president was Calvin Coolidge. In 1923, when Coolidge was vice president, he said, "After order and liberty, economy is one of the highest essentials of a free government."

Coolidge left the presidency with a surplus. So did Bill Clinton. That a Republican Congress and administration are engaging in such promiscuous spending is obscene. If voting in Democrats -who in the past engaged in deficit spending - punishes Republicans, little will change. What to do?

Maybe it's time for a strong third party, or failing that, another revolution.

Cal Thomas

Get Cal Thomas' new book, What Works, at Amazon.

Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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