Paul Jacob

Most regular readers of Townhall no doubt think of themselves as conservatives or “on the right.” And they think of their enemies as being “on the left.”

But on some issues, at least, aren’t we moderates, instead? And why can’t those on the left make common cause with us . . . at least on our truly moderate positions?

Controlling government growth, an unradical thought
Case in point: I support constitutional limits on government spending growth. For this, many on the left revile me and my friends and allies as “extremist right-wingers” and such.

But why would demanding moderation in government spending be considered anything but moderate?

Maybe it’s this: When governments lurch out of control, moderation demands that we try some seemingly “radical” things. You know, like making politicians behave with moderation.

And it turns out the only way to be even mildly successful at this: Turn the Constitution — and state constitutions — against the over-spenders in our legislatures. I’ve supported initiatives to do this. You may have voted for one, or one like it, if you’re lucky enough to live in a state with citizen initiative rights.

Leftists (and many “liberals”) tend to go into hysterics about these efforts, looking on initiatives like the “Taxpayer’s Bills of Rights” and campaigns like Oklahoma’s late and lamented “Stop OverSpending” as “subversive” and “pernicious.” (They use all sorts of nasty words.)

Their big fear seems to be that citizens will be easily convinced by simple pitches. So they call the short and pithy statements that many of us have used to promote such efforts “lying.” Even “fraudulent.”

Spending limitation slogans and arguments aren’t acts of prevarication, of course. I mean, why lie when the truth works so much better? Constitutional limits almost sell themselves.

But to some leftists, any argument for controlling spending seems like a lie. Why? Good question. It’s easy to see why politicians don’t like spending limits. Limits muck up the game of redistribution and favor-granting. It’s a little harder to get re-elected when you don’t always increase the number of targetable constituencies who get special spending favors from the government . . . at the expense of taxpayers at large.

Why would leftists follow suit? Why embrace the politician’s vice? I have theories, but I’m not certain. As I see it, support for spending controls should be bipartisan — omni-partisan.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.