Balanced Budget Amendment the answer? Boozman says yes, Pryor no (Part 12, Milton Friedman’s view is yes)(The Conspirator Part 15)

Photo detail

Professor Friedman examines the dynamics of “doing good” with other people’s money

Steve Brawner in his article “Safer roads and balanced budgets,” Arkansas News Bureau, April 13, 2011, asserted:

The disagreement is over the solutions — on what spending to cut; what taxes to raise (basically none ever, according to Boozman); whether or not to enact a balanced budget amendment (Boozman says yes; Pryor no); and on what policies would promote the kind of economic growth that would make this a little easier.

Steve Brawner in his article “Senators differ on constitutional change,” Arkansas News Bureau, April 20, 2011 noted:

Enacting a balanced budget amendment is not a new idea. In 1995, a proposed amendment passed the House and almost passed the Senate, failing by one vote. The next step would have been ratification by 38 states.

Supporters have a very compelling common-sense argument on their side: The government apparently is unable to keep its books balanced without one. The last time the country was debt-free was in 1835, and while there have been peaks and valleys, the trajectory toward $14.3 trillion has been an upward one. Even during the peaceful and prosperous previous decade, the government actually managed to balance its budget only once, in 2000, without raiding the imaginary Social Security “trust fund.”

Now the government is running annual deficits in the $1.5 trillion range – much of it financed by foreign entities such as the Chinese government.

Meanwhile, Boozman and others can point to a state like Arkansas, where the Revenue Stabilization Act, the statutory equivalent of a balanced budget amendment, has helped the state remain relatively debt-free.

In Feb of 1983 Milton Friedman wrote the article “Washington:Less Red Ink (An argument that the balanced-budget amendent would be a rare merging of public and private interests),” and here is a portion of that article:

Our elected representatives in Congress have been voting larger expenditures year after year–larger not only in dollars but as a fraction of the national income. Tax revenue has been rising as well, but nothing like so rapidly. As a result, deficits have grown and grown. 

At the same time, the public has demonstrated increasing resistance to higher spending, higher taxes, and higher deficits. Every survey of public opinion shows a large majority that believes that government is spending too much money, and that the government budget should be balanced. 

How is it that a government of the majority produces results that the majority opposes? 

The paradox reflects a defect in our political structure. We are ruled by a majority–but it is a majority composed of a coalition of minorities representing special interests. A particular minority may lose more from programs benefiting other minorities than it gains from programs benefiting itself. It might be willing to give up its own programs as part of a package deal eliminating all programs–but, currently, there is no way it can express that preference. 

Similarly, it is not in the interest of a legislator to vote against a particular appropriation bill if that vote would create strong enemies while a vote in its favor would alienate few supporters. That is why simply electing the right people is not a solution. Each of us will be favorably inclined toward a legislator who has voted for a bill that confers a large benefit on us, as we perceive it. Yet who among us will oppose a legislator because he has voted for a measure that, while requiring a large expenditure, will increase the taxes on each of us by a few cents or a few dollars? When we are among the few who benefit, it pays us to keep track of the vote. When we are among the many who bear the cost, it does not pay us even to read about it. 

The result is a major defect in the legislative procedure whereby a budget is enacted: each measure is considered separately, and the final budget is the sum of the separate items, limited by no effective, overriding total. That defect will not be remedied by Congress itself–as the failure of one attempt after another at reforming the budget process has demonstrated. It simply is not in the self-interest of legislators to remedy it–at least not as they have perceived their self-interest. 

Dissatisfaction with ever-increasing spending and taxes first took the form of pressure on legislators to discipline themselves. When it became clear that they could not or would not do so, the dissatisfaction took the form of a drive for constitutional amendments at both the state and the federal levels. The drive captured national attention when Proposition 13, reducing property taxes, was passed in California; it has held public attention since, scoring successes in state after state. The constitutional route remains the only one by which the general interest of the public can be expressed, by which package deals, as it were, can be realized.

A sequence constructed from still photos of the execution by hanging of the Lincoln conspirators.

I love the movie “The Conspirator” and here is someone who was pictured in the movie:

Library of Congress Photograph
David Edgar Herold was born on June 16, 1842, in Maryland. He was the sixth child born to Adam and Mary Porter Herold. Two brothers died very young leaving “Davey” the only boy in a family with seven sisters. The Herolds moved to Washington, D.C., and they lived in a large brick home at 636 Eighth Street near the Washington Navy Yard. The family was well off financially. David’s father was the chief clerk at the Navy Store at the Washington Navy Yard for more than 20 years. David liked to go bird hunting and spent several months every year engaged in that sport. Thus, he was very familiar with the Maryland countryside.
Image of David Herold’s House (source: George Eastman House)David had studied pharmacy at Georgetown College and had worked for several druggists in Washington. In 1863, while working for Thompson’s Pharmacy in the heart of Washington, Herold may have delivered a bottle of castor oil to the White House and personally given it to Abraham Lincoln.It is possible that Herold met Booth because of his friendship with John Surratt. It is also possible that the initial meeting took place in 1863 when Booth purchased drugs to treat a growth on his neck. Because Booth was involved in smuggling quinine to the South, it made sense to befriend Herold who had access to medicines. Additionally, it is likely that Herold was recruited by Booth because of his knowledge of lower Maryland which might be helpful in Booth’s plot to kidnap Lincoln and take him south. On the night of Wednesday, March 15, 1865, Herold met with Booth and other conspirators at Gautier’s Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue to discuss the possible abduction of the president. These plans never worked out.When Booth’s plans turned to assassination, “Davey” Herold was assigned to guide Lewis Powell (alias Lewis Paine or Payne) to the Secretary of State’s home so Powell could assassinate William Seward. Then Herold was to lead Powell as he escaped from Washington, D.C. When screams came from the Secretary’s home, Herold didn’t wait for Powell and rode off. He crossed the Navy Yard Bridge and escaped from the Washington area.Somewhere on the road to Surrattsville (now Clinton), Maryland, Herold met up with Booth (probably near Soper’s Hill). The two stopped at John Lloyd’s tavern and picked up a carbine, Booth’s field glasses, and whiskey. From there they road to Dr. Samuel Mudd’s home near Bryantown and arrived about 4:00 A.M. Mudd set Booth’s broken leg, and the two fugitives left Mudd’s on the afternoon of April 15th, 1865.

Until April 26th the two were on the run. On that date, they were surrounded by Union cavalry while sleeping in a tobacco barn on the farm of Richard Garrett near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold gave up, but Booth was shot and killed after the barn was set on fire.

During the trial Herold had no chance whatsoever. He had been seen with Booth during the 12 days after the assassination and was in the barn when Booth was captured and killed. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang along with Lewis Powell, Mary Surratt, and George Atzerodt. In jail he was visited by his mother and many of his seven sisters shortly before the execution. Often described as a half-wit, in reality he was not. Herold was hanged on July 7, 1865. Of the four who were executed, he is the only one for whom no last words were recorded.

David Herold was buried at the Congressional Cemetery, on the banks of the eastern branch of the Potomac River. The cemetery is located at 1801 East Street, SE Washington, D.C. A photograph of Herold’s grave is on the web. If interested CLICK HERE.

THE EXECUTION – JULY 7, 1865, AT 1:26 P.M.
Left to right: Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt.
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