Balanced Budget Amendment the answer? Boozman says yes, Pryor no (Part 13, Milton Friedman’s view is yes)(The Conspirator Part 18, Lewis Powell Part A)

Dallas Fed president and CEO Richard W. Fisher sat down with economist Milton Friedman on October 19, 2005, as part of ongoing discussions with the Nobel Prize winner. In this clip, Friedman argues for a reduction in government spending.

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I really wish that Senator Pryor would see the wisdom of supporting the Balanced Budget amendment. If he did then I think his chances of getting re-elected in Arkansas would rise considerably. What are the chances that Senator Pryor will be re-elected? They have greatly improved from 2% to about 40% since he now appears willing to work on the most serious out of control spending problem our federal government has ever had. See a post that I did yesterday concerning Pryor’s recent speech at the Political Animals’ Club in Little Rock.

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

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:

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.

But opponents of the idea have compelling arguments of their own, starting with the fact that there are times when the government shouldn’t balance its budget. During World War II, for example, big annual deficits caused the national debt to reach 122 percent of gross domestic product, its highest percentage ever, but those deficits financed victory in Europe and the Pacific. Moreover, sometimes excess government spending can help keep a recession from becoming much worse.

Any balanced budget amendment therefore would include a clause allowing deficit spending under certain conditions. That would be a big – and often abused – loophole.

Opponents of a balanced budget amendment have other arguments on their side. One is that elected officials simply would work around it — by declaring certain expenditures “off budget,” for example.

Another is that the amendment would add a third branch of government, the judiciary, to a process that is messy enough involving two. Constitutionally requiring a balanced budget would open up each year’s spending decisions to all kinds of lawsuits, meaning that judges, many of them unelected, would be making the ultimate decisions about how tax dollars are spent.

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:

Two national organizations have led this drive: the National Tax Limitation Committee (NTLC), founded in 1975 as a single-issue, nonpartisan organization to serve as a clearinghouse for information on attempts to limit taxes at a local, state, or federal level, and to assist such attempts; and the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), which led the drive to persuade state legislatures to pass resolutions calling for a constitutional convention to enact an amendment requiring the federal government to balance its budget. Thirty-one states have already passed resolutions calling for a convention. If three more pass similar resolutions, the Constitution requires Congress to call such a convention–a major reason Congress has been active in producing its own amendment. 

The amendment that was passed by the Senate last August 4, by a vote of 69 to 31 (two more than the two thirds required for approval of a constitutional amendment), had its origin in 1973 in a California proposition that failed at the time but passed in 1979 in improved form (not Proposition 13). A drafting committee organized by the NTLC produced a draft amendment applicable to the federal government in late 1978. The NTU contributed its own version. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a final version on May 19, 1981, after lengthy hearings and with the cooperation of all the major contributors to the earlier work. In my opinion, the committee’s final version was better than any earlier draft. That version was adopted by the Senate except for the addition of section 6, proposed by Senator William Armstrong, of Colorado, a Republican. Approval by the Senate, like the sponsorship of the amendment, was bipartisan: forty-seven Republicans, twenty-one Democrats, and one Independent voted for the amendment. 

The House Democratic leadership tried to prevent a vote on the amendment in the House before last November’s elections. However, a discharge petition forced a vote on it on October 1, the last full day of the regular session. The amendment was approved by a majority (236 to 187), but not by the necessary two thirds. Again, the majority was bipartisan: 167 Republicans, 69 Democrats. In view of its near passage and the widespread public support for it, the amendment is sure to be reintroduced in the current session of Congress. Hence it remains a very live issue. 

The amendment as adopted by the Senate would achieve two related objectives: first, it would increase the likelihood that the federal budget would be brought into balance, not by prohibiting an unbalanced budget but by making it more difficult to enact a budget calling for a deficit; second, it would check the growth of government spending–again, not by prohibiting such growth but by making it more difficult.

Robert Redford brings his new film to the Toronto International Film Festival 2010, a film about a female charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination trial of Abraham Lincoln. As the whole nation turns against her, she is forced to rely on her reluctant lawyer to uncover the truth and save her life.

I love the movie “The Conspirator” and I wanted to take a closer look at the people involved.



From the left: Lewis with his mother when he was 2; Lewis at age 12; Lewis at age 16;
Lewis after his arrest (age 20, almost 21)


Lewis Thornton Powell (also known as Lewis Paine or Lewis Payne) was born April 22, 1844, in Randolph County, Alabama. Powell had eight brothers and sisters, and his father, George, was a Baptist preacher and missionary. As Lewis grew up, his siblings called him “Doc.” At age 12 he was kicked by a mule while playing in his back yard (resulting in a broken jaw and missing molar).

This injury led to the left side of his jaw being more prominent than the right, a fact noted by medical personnel who examined him during the conspiracy trial. It is likely young Lewis was educated by his parents at home. When he was 15, the family moved to a farm near Live Oak, Florida.

Pictured to the left is the Reverend George C. Powell, Lewis’s father.In 1861, when news of the Civil War’s outbreak reached Live Oak, Powell volunteered as a soldier for the Confederacy. On May 30, 1861, he was accepted for enlistment as a private. His father said this was the last time he ever saw Lewis. According to William E. Doster, Powell’s attorney at the conspiracy trial, while stationed in Richmond Powell attended a play and was particularly impressed by one of the actors.  The actor’s name was John Wilkes Booth. After the play, Powell introduced himself to Booth. An immediate friendship resulted. (This account of the initial meeting is very doubtful according to Betty Ownsbey in her book on Powell. It seems Booth’s stage engagements in Richmond ended in May, 1860.)

Powell fought in the Battle of Gettysburg and was shot in the right wrist and taken prisoner. Later he was transferred to the United States Army Hospital in Baltimore. Powell escaped and enlisted in Col. John Singleton Mosby’s Virginia cavalry in the fall of 1863. He was a very apt Ranger. Eventually, Powell departed from Mosby’s cavalry and took the Oath of Allegiance to the Union on January 13, 1865. (This document described Powell as being 6 feet 1 1/2 inches tall with black hair and blue eyes.) Lewis then went to live in Baltimore. He boarded at the Branson boardinghouse which was being used as a front by those involved in Confederate espionage.At some time Powell, probably through John Surratt, met with John Wilkes Booth. Dr. Samuel Mudd had previously introduced Surratt, a Confederate courier, to Booth. Booth saw Powell, tall and powerfully built, as an ideal and well-qualified co-conspirator in his plan to kidnap Abraham Lincoln. Powell was adept in the use of firearms. Booth took Powell “under his wing.”In late February of 1865 Powell showed up at Mary Surratt’s Washington boardinghouse using the alias “Reverend Wood.” On the night of March 15, 1865, Powell met with Booth and other conspirators at Gautier’s Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue to discuss the possible abduction of the president.

On Friday, March 17, 1865, Powell, Booth and other conspirators planned to kidnap President Lincoln as he rode in his carriage to attend a play at the Campbell Hospital located just outside Washington, D.C. The kidnap plot failed as Lincoln never arrived in his carriage. ** The president had remained in Washington. At about 4:00 P.M., standing on the balcony of the National Hotel, he spoke to the 140th Indiana Regiment and presented a captured flag to Indiana’s governor. The National Hotel was the same hotel where JWB stayed.

On April 14, 1865, after Booth heard of Lincoln’s plan to attend Ford’s Theatre, the conspirators held one final meeting. This was possibly in Powell’s rented room at the Herndon House. However, it could well have been at another location most likely at another location as Powell had checked out during the mid-afternoon. Booth assigned Powell to kill Secretary of State William Seward that night at approximately 10:15 P.M. to coincide with Booth’s attack at Ford’s Theatre. David Herold would accompany Powell. Another conspirator, George Atzerodt, was supposed to assassinate Vice-President Andrew Johnson at the Kirkwood House.

Shortly after 10:00 P.M. that evening, Powell and David Herold arrived at the Seward home, the Old Club House (pictured to the left; source of picture: United States Naval Historical Center; the building was torn down in 1895 and is now the site of the Court of Claims Building), located in Lafayette Park across from the White House. Powell gained entrance to the Secretary’s residence by telling the second waiter, William H. Bell, that he had medicine for Seward from Dr. Tullio Suzzaro Verdi. Seward, 63, was quite ill due to a carriage accident and was confined to his bed in his third floor bedroom. Powell was well armed. He carried an 1858 Whitney revolver which was a large, heavy, and popular gun during the Civil War. Additionally, he carried a huge silver-mounted bowie knife with an alligator motif and the engraving “The Hunter’s Companion – Real Life Defender.” After pistol-whipping Seward’s son, Frederick, Powell attacked the Secretary of State with his knife. He placed his left hand on Seward’s chest and then struck down with his knife several times. One stab wound went entirely through the Secretary’s right cheek. Seward was seriously injured in the attack. In all, Powell injured five people during his wild rampage in the Seward home.
The photograph to the left is a Library of Congress photograph of William Seward before Powell’s attack. To the right is a photograph of William Seward’s disfigured appearance after Powell’s attack. It is a University of Rochester Library photograph. It’s a rare picture in that Seward hardly ever allowed photos to be taken that showed the scarred right side of his face. Source of the University of Rochester Library photograph: p. 98 of the late Dr. John K. Lattimer’s Kennedy and Lincoln: Medical and Ballistic Comparisons of Their Assassinations.
SOURCE: The Assassination and History of the Conspiracy (Cincinnati, J.R. Hawley & Co., 1865)


After Powell’s malicious attack a dentist, Dr. Thomas Brian Gunning, designed a mouth splint for William Seward. The splint was intended to keep Seward’s jaw fragments lined up. Seward had to wear the device for several months. (From Dr. John K. Lattimer, et al., Journal of the American Dental Association, January, 1968. Dr. Lattimer included the graphic on p. 101 of his Kennedy and Lincoln: Medical and Ballistic Comparisons of Their Assassinations.)

Powell ran out of the house and hid for three days in a wooded lot about a mile from the Navy Yard Bridge. He took shelter in the branches of a tree. Then, on the night of April 17, 1865, disguised as a laborer, he showed up at Mary Surratt’s home just as she was being placed under arrest. Powell was arrested and taken in for interrogation. Bell, the Secretary of State’s second waiter, identified Powell as Seward’s attacker.

Source: National Park Service

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