Robert Knight

In celebration of the Gipper's birthday, Townhall is featuring a series of concise examples of Mr. Reagan's wisdom, mostly in his own words, drawn from The Reagan Resolve, a monograph compiled by the Carleson Center for Welfare Reform.

Ronald Reagan, whose 103rd birthday we celebrate today, understood Washington’s insatiable appetite for spending.

"We don’t have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much."

[Remarks to the Nat’l Assn. of Realtors, March 28, 1992]

As a result, he favored passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Reagan wanted to:

“Balance the budget by bringing to heel a Federal establishment which has taken too much power from the States, too much liberty with the Constitution, and too much money from the people."

[Remarks at a rally for a proposed Constitutional Amendment for a balanced federal budget, July 19, 1982]

Consistent with Reagan’s philosophy, a balanced budget amendment needs to include enforceable limitations on both total spending and taxes as a percent of GDP, to prevent Congress from using the amendment as a mandate to raise taxes to finance runaway spending.

“It is clear that we need a mechanism to control expenditures of Americans’ hard-earned money. To this end, I will send to the Congress a proposed constitutional amendment to require a super-majority vote in the Congress in order to increase the tax burden on our citizens. I urge the Congress to act expeditiously in approving this amendment and to send it to the States for ratification.”

[1988 Legislative and Administrative Message to Congress: A Union of Individuals, Jan. 25, 1988]

A supermajority voting requirement for raising taxes or exceeding spending limits, such as 60% of both the House and the Senate, would be one way. The late William Niskanen, who served on Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors from 1981-1985 and was a founding member of the Carleson Center policy board, proposed such a Constitutional Amendment to Congress in January 1995. It ran just 125 words, "consistent with the crisp and majestic language of most of the Constitution” as recounted by Richard W. Rahn in memoriam in the Washington Times on November 1, 2011.

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.