The Farmer and the Lottery

By James Schaefer.

  The farmer wins the lottery and is being interviewed by a news reporter.  “What are you planning to do, now that you’ve got all this money?”  Replies the farmer,”Well, I guess I’ll just keep farming ’til the money’s gone.”

Today farmers enjoy so much taxpayer support that it’s fair to say we’re all farming ’til our money’s gone. The federal debt ceiling has been raised and raised again, and now Congress is being asked to raise it yet once more (Geithner Makes New Plea)—this time to $14.29 trillion.

It wasn’t that long ago — 1968 — that America had a budget deficit of $12 billion (billion with a B) and a cumulative federal debt of $368.7 billion.  This was sufficient to motivate Lyndon Johnson to bring the Social Security Trust Fund “on budget” to help cover the shortfall.

This was in the midst of the Vietnam War, and at the beginning of the Great Society.  They called it “guns and butter”;  the war eventually ended, but the Great Society became Greater and Greater;  at a cost of nearly $14 trillion in the past 4 decades.  The mindset of “It’s okay to live above your means” and “charge it, please” has permeated households, the halls of Congress, State Houses, and municipal governments alike.

Last week Senate Joint Resolution 10 (S.J. Res. 10), to amend the Constitution to add a Balanced Budget Amendment, was submitted by Senator Orrin Hatch and co-sponsored by 47 Senators—most of whom also co-sponsored S.J. Res. 3, 4, and 5, which are still alive and in committee.

The constitutional amendment proposed by each of these bills would require a balanced budget, and also limit the federal government’s role in the economy.  S.J. Res. 3 and 4 limit federal spending to 20% of GDP, which happens to be the most we have ever collected in taxes—including the years in the 50s, 60s, and 70s when the top income tax rate was 70% and 91%.  If you find those tax rates hard to believe, click on Facts and Figures (in the blue bar above) for a link to White House Budget Office statistics.

S.J. Res. 5 and 10 propose to limit federal spending to 18% of GDP, which is the average of our tax collections over the decades.  S.J. Res. 10 unites the various Republican factions—it’s co-signed by all 47 Republican senators—but did not garner the support of Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado.  He is a co-signer of S.J. Res. 4, with a 20% limit on spending, and we can only hope that other Democrats are lining up with him.

Washington is full of bold proposals for cutting spending (and reforming the big entitlements that are racing toward bankruptcy), but these Senate resolutions are the only game in town for those who are interested in fiscal responsibility that impacts the long term and has a chance of succeeding.  And it’s being debated right now.  Please call your Senator today.  Just click your state on the map for the phone numbers for both of your Senators and your congressman: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/cgi-bin/newseek.cgi?site=ctc2011&state=nh 

Recently, a friend asked, “What will happen if everyone follows your advice and stops spending as much?  Won’t that tank the economy?”  My response: “Well, look where profligate spending has gotten us: the biggest recession in four generations.”  

We as a nation need to decide: who do we want to be?

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