Paul Greenberg

"Governments don't reduce deficits by raising taxes on the people; governments reduce deficits by controlling spending and stimulating new wealth."

--Ronald Reagan

Greece isn't the only country to try spending its way to prosperity -- only to find a sure way to poverty. The same delusion has tempted other European governments. Portugal comes readily to mind, and Italy may be next to discover that what looked like the road to Easy Street leads instead to Skid Row.

The temptation to spend more than a government's got can be intoxicating. (See Washington, D.C.) But it's beginning to lose its lure. On both sides of the pond.

For the moment Washington has tied itself into one grand knot rather than take the only medicine known to cure the hangover that comes after a long spending binge: Sober up and purge the system.

But the president and his party want to keep on taxing (just the rich, you understand) and spending (just on sacred cows like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and/or whatever program is the president's favorite today).

As for the opposition, it doesn't have the votes to pass a balanced budget all by itself.

Result: Stalemate. It happens from time to time in Washington, and every time it does, We the People are supposed to panic. Or at least be scared into taxing and spending more. Which is just how the country got into this fix.

A good belt of Old Hair of the Dog will fix us right up, we're assured. And there will always be those who believe it. It's a lot easier than changing our ways.

The GOP's leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has devised his own way not to face the music: Hand the power to raise the debt limit to the president if he's so eager to keep spending.

This ploy is constitutionally dubious -- can Congress really hand off its responsibility for authorizing more national debt to the chief executive? -- and politically transparent. The minority leader would prefer that a Democratic president bear the onus for pushing the United States even further into debt. This isn't any kind of solution. It's a substitute for one.

Republicans in the House have their own way of avoiding responsibility. They've proposed a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. Anything rather than actually balance it. It's a time-honored dodge.

When the ancients found themselves in a quandary, they consulted the stars. In this country, those more interested in putting off a problem than solving it consult the Constitution to see what panaceas they can write on it like so much graffiti. It's a way to put off hard decisions rather than have to make them.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.