Paul Jacob

Early last week, insider Republican and CNN columnist David Frum lashed out at the GOP’s Tea Party wing, writing: “You can’t save the system by destroying the system.” I responded on This is Common Sense:

If the system has put America on a crash course with disaster, then that system must be replaced. With a better one.

When I wrote that I had not yet fully comprehended the full import of the goofy creation (by the debt deal) of what Rep. Ron Paul calls a Super Congress — the select committee of senators and representatives to be put in charge of budgeting, with the rest of Congress not allowed to amend their proposals, just vote yea or nay.

There are two things to say about this:

    1. It’s interesting.

    2. It’s scary.

Interesting, in that such a major change to the constitution of our government could be contemplated without any official mention of the actual Constitution.

Scary, in that it goes in entirely the wrong direction, towards oligarchy and away from republic. We need more representation from the people (the “public” in the “republic”) — that is, more representatives in Congress — so that the ratio between politicians and citizens is not so lopsided, in favor of politician power and political class insularity.

But that sort of reform, like term limits, seems unlikely to occur while crisis breathes down our necks and our “transparent politicians” retreat further behind closed doors. So what particular system or systems need to be junked, and what replacements did I have in mind when I reacted against Frum’s anti-Tea screed?

I can think of many, but one reform stands out: Junk the budgeting process.

Congress and the Executive Branch conspire together to always increase the budget. The current system is based on the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which set up the insanity of baseline budgeting, where the Congressional Budget Office creates an estimate of future government spending growth, which allows Congress to make minor downward adjustments to the expected upward spending and call them “cuts.” (It also prevented the Executive from strategically not spending congressional largesse, the traditional function people talk about replacing with the “line-item veto.”)

The solution is obvious. Repeal the act. Start from scratch.

The baseline for next year’s budget should depend on the nominal amounts spent in the current year — not adjusted for inflation, for that only encourages inflationary processes — or (better yet) the revenue received in the previous year. (Yes, no more reliance upon badly projected revenues, but figuring from actual revenues. No more phony-baloney estimates.)

Once the mad system of baseline budgeting and built-in accommodations to inflation are replaced with sanity, our biggest problem child, the welfare state (Social Security and the over-subsidized, over-regulated medical-industrial complex) can be tackled next.

Or maybe the warfare state could be subjected to intelligent critique, where real defense of American soil replaces the “world policeman” role that our government plays so badly — but to the great advantage of international businesses with political connections. Americans should not be forced to pay to police the world, either in blood or dollars.

Whatever the substance of insane over-spending may be (and it’s probably nearly everything, not just “health care” or Social Security or the Pentagon), American governance might be put on track, if, at the very least, the most basic rogue subsystems can be first brought under some control. (Another rogue subsystem is the Federal Reserve and the international fiat currency “non” standard. But how to deal with that I’ll leave to those with more monetary expertise than I possess.)

Tea Party folks need to think hard about such matters. While declared victors by the mainstream media, the Tea Party did not win with the budget deal. The debt ceiling was raised, and spending was set to rise, too, for the future. It was all a sham, and a big loss to the Tea Party cause, contra Frum and his fellow rah-rah boys for big government.

American government is still rogue, and our leaders have not relinquished their dedication to mad profligacy. Now, with the Super Congress in place, and as of yet unchallenged on constitutional grounds, the designation of “rogue” reaches another level of enormity.


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.