November 13, 2009

How to Rein in Crazy Spending


There needs to be a debate not only about getting spending under control, but about how to get that spending under control.  I think, as you know if you read my first post, that we need to put the power back in the hands of the States.  When control is local, power is accessible by the voter.  When control is Federal, power is spread over such a wide swatch that it is easy to manipulate a majority of the masses and tyrannize the rest of us (this has been thoroughly exposited elsewhere, so I'll go with this as a given).

So what, exactly, are we dealing with, here?  How much spending is sent where, and who does most of the spending?  By how much?  These are questions I had, so I went about finding some answers.  In order to tackle a problem, one would do well to first know exactly what needs to be fixed.  If a light suddenly goes out, I want to know if it's the bulb before I start tearing out drywall and rewiring the house.

For others who would like to know this information as well (and, hopefully, to spark some conversation aimed at solutions), I have compiled a couple of charts (using a great little tool at http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/charts.html#usgs302).  The first is Interest, Education, Welfare, Health, and Pensions spending.  The second is Defense, Transportation, Protection, General, and Other spending.  The third is Debt and the Federal Deficit.  I have them broken down by Total, Federal, State, and Local.  Without further ado- charts!

Total:




Federal:






State:





Local:





The first thing I see here is that Federal debt's out of control (not that State and Local are anything to smile about).  The second is that the Federal government is spending at a higher percentage of the total than the State and Local governments combined.  The third is that there's a lot of spending going on that doesn't actually produce anything (though that's a Federal, State, and Local problem as well).  These last two, and possibly all three, could be cured by getting the money back where it belongs and was always intended to reside.

I don't, personally, see that the Fair Tax nor Flat Tax will solve this problem and get the money back in the hands of the States (aside from defense and some of the general and other spending, which are properly the jurisprudence of the Federal government).  I also don't know that repealing the 16th Amendment will do this as the Federal government still has the power to lay an income tax (among others; the 16th Amendment merely defines the way in which the Federal government may abuse the income tax unconstitutionally, not whether or not it's lawful for the Federal government to tax income).  They're still very good ideas, and they probably would be a heck of a lot easier to implement than a Constitutional Amendment, but I think that only a Constitutional Amendment would do the trick completely instead of being a band-aid on a trauma victim.

I'm a big fan of putting all of the taxation in the hands of the several States, directly, and having the Federal government funded by the States, indirectly (as it relates to the people and their property, that is).  This would allow the law of Uniformity (per the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1), but would also allow the States enough autonomy to decide upon whatever form of taxes they choose.  This may make an issue with Apportionment, but I don't know if that could be covered in the language of a proposed amendment.  Something like:

Amendment to the Constitution of the United States for the Regulation of Federal Monetary Appropriations
1.  The sixteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
2.  The Congress' power to collect duties, taxes, imposts, and excises shall be limited to thirty per cent of all revenue collected by the several states; such funds are hereby to be collected by the Congress from the States directly.  For the purposes of this clause, interest on state-owned investments shall not be considered collected revenue by the state which owns the investment.  This clause shall constitute the fulfillment of the apportionment and uniformity clauses in Article one, Section two, paragraph three and Article one, Section eight, paragraph one.
3.  The Congress shall be limited in its exercise of spending to the powers specifically enumerated by Article one, Section eight.  The term "General Welfare of the United States" in Article one, Section eight, paragraph one shall be defined as the intent of the powers granted to the Congress in Article one, Section 8, and shall not be construed as a separate duty or power from those listed.
4.  All persons claiming entitlement to government monies or services outside of the powers enumerated to the Congress in Article one, Section eight, shall have recourse to appeal for said monies or services to the state in which they reside.  The states shall fulfill or deny any claims as their legislatures shall see fit.
5.  This amendment absolves all responsibility of the Congress for any appropriations, payouts, services, or otherwise that do not fall within the powers enumerated in Article one, Section eight, as clarified by this amendment.
6.  Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

I'm not certain on the percentage of the total that the Federal government ought to be entitled to; I took thirty per cent by taking the (rough) total per cent currently going to the Federal government and subtracting the (rough) percentages of things the Federal government is paying for but ought not be (as they fall outside of the enumerated powers).  The number has a very wide margin of error, so it could reasonably be much higher or lower.  This is just an idea for the wording and spirit of such a proposal.

The only problem with this plan?  It would either have to go through a Constitutional Committee or a Constitutional Convention.  The first would be made up of US Congress people and, hence, would probably go no further.  I don't trust legislators to pass an amendment through committee that will limit their powers; if anything, they've proven over the last century that people will do almost anything to hang on to their power (except, for some reason, the general population of the United States).  The second, a Constitutional Convention, is a bad idea because it opens the door for all kind s of frivilous and wacky junk that the fringe elements of our society have waited for decades to march out.  Right alongside this amendment to right the wrongs of the 20th century politicians would be amendments for free health care, outlawing hunting, and mandatory health clubs for polar bears.  And a big global warming amendment, but that's another subject.

Notwithstanding, I think a case could be made that this would be far easier to implement than term limits.  Perhaps that could be a platform for it; scare the politicians with term limits, then slip this in and tell them we'll stop with the term limits if they pass this amendment.  We can throw in a free trip to the country with the mistress of their choice to sweeten the pot.

3 comments:

  1. The only chance we ever have at passing another Constitutional Amendment is if it is easily understood by the public.

    I'd just be happy if #3 from your Amendment was enacted:

    "3. The Congress shall be limited in its exercise of spending to the powers specifically enumerated by Article one, Section eight. The term "General Welfare of the United States" in Article one, Section eight, paragraph one shall be defined as the intent of the powers granted to the Congress in Article one, Section 8, and shall not be construed as a separate duty or power from those listed."

    This alone would greatly reform our current system.

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  2. Jeff T. said...
    The only chance we ever have at passing another Constitutional Amendment is if it is easily understood by the public.

    Agreed. And that’s really the crux of the problem. We got here because the men and women of Congress over the years have wanted (and gained) more and more power, and most current, and presumably future, Congressmen are not about to give that up. But most Americans today aren’t educated enough to even know why we call it the Federal Government rather than the National Government and, thus, have no reason to believe that an Amendment is needed. And this even includes most who think that the Federal Government is too bloated. And some states themselves are to be included in this. (see Hurricane Katrina)

    The bloating has happened so slowly over so many years that it was never stopped, and we now find ourselves here, a Federal Government willing to spend our money on things it was never intended to, and a population that has no clue what the Constitution says.

    Oh, and the Courts haven’t been any help either.

    I love your proposed Amendment, Skipper, but I fear it’s too late.

    One more thing: Those Congressmen who ARE fiscally responsible in principle are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If there’s Federal money to be doled out and they don’t fight to get piece of the pie for their districts, the voters, with the help of any opposing candidates, will view them as ineffective and quite possibly vote them out of office. The system has been built to keep itself as is.

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  3. How do you boil a frog?

    I'm afraid that the American frog may be ready for the proverbial fork, but I'm not willing to throw in the towel just yet. We've still got some "hop" left in us; maybe enough to get out of the pot.

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