Back then Americans revolted. Today, Seidman doesn’t seem to think we’re revolting enough. “Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago,” he writes.
But our country’s problem isn’t the Constitution. Note that Seidman seems to root his piece in the recently-concluded fiscal cliff debacle. Yet nobody involved in that debate relied on Madisonian arguments. It was all about taxing and spending, the sort of thing any government is going to have to do no matter how it’s organized. That’s practical, if not particularly forward-looking, politics.
President Obama, for example, has only one apparent policy: to force “the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes.” That’s a political decision that has nothing to do with the Constitution. In fact, since he cannot run again, Obama is, constitutionally, in a perfect position to think big and show real leadership. He could propose sweeping solutions to our fiscal problems. He doesn’t seem to have any interest in doing so.
Instead, “Obama refuses to concede that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are driving future spending and deficits,” notes Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post. “So when Republicans make concessions on taxes (as they have), they get little in return.”
Obama’s desired tax increases will have almost no effect on the budget deficit, which clocked in last year at $1,089 billion. We can’t tax ourselves out of our $16 trillion debt.
There are answers. The Heritage Foundation has designed a comprehensive plan that would allow us to Save the American Dream. Getting there will require political leadership and difficult decisions, but it can be done.
The problem isn’t the Constitution, it’s the people we’ve elected to govern. The Senate, for example, refuses to pass a budget. That’s a political decision made by Senate leadership. We could change the Constitution (some have proposed a balanced budget amendment), but smart, principled leaders could balance the budget without changing the Constitution.
The Constitution isn’t perfect, but it creates a framework under which Americans can determine our own political future. Let’s keep it in place, and maybe even actually read it. That might encourage us to elect different people to represent us in government. We don’t need to go the way of the USSR, and Prof. Seidman can keep his day job.