Recently, columnist Sid Salter, parroting the line of newly appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith, called the effort to balance the federal budget via the Rand Paul bill known as the “penny plan” a meaningless, theatrical move. Paul’s plan, simply put, would have cut one penny from each dollar of discretionary spending, i.e. 1 percent of the budget, each year. The plan, had it passed, would have cut spending by $13 trillion over 10 years and balanced the budget in five years.
Smith, Salter, and other opponents of the “penny plan” allege that it would result in draconian cuts to Social Security and the defense budget. Such claims are made to confuse and frighten voters. First of all, Social Security is now classified as an entitlement program and, thus, is not part of discretionary funding. Second, the “penny plan” calls for reduction of the overall discretionary budget. How the discretionary funds are allocated will still be up to Congress. There is nothing in the plan to prevent Congress from fully funding the defense budget and cutting spending elsewhere. Where do we make up the difference? I suggest that the federal government start by no longer funding projects totally unrelated to the limited governing powers granted to it by the U.S. Constitution.
In lieu of voting for a plan that actually offers a real solution for balancing the budget, Cindy Hyde-Smith has chosen instead to co-sponsor a resolution seeking to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget each year. Talk about theatrics and grandstanding. Smith’s resolution is the poster child for form over substance. Such an amendment first would require the approval of at least two-thirds of the members in both the U.S. House and Senate. Assuming Smith could muster such a bi-partisan vote, the proposed amendment then would require approval by three-fourths of the states. That’s 38 states. The last time the U.S. Constitution was amended was in 1992. That amendment took 202 years and seven months to receive the approval of the requisite number of states. How much more in debt will we be by then? There is no guarantee that the amendment would be ratified at all. If the amendment actually were to become law, the budget would have to be immediately balanced with nothing off the chopping block. Congress can’t even pass an unbalanced budget as evidenced by the passage of the recent $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill. Imagine Congress trying to pass a mandatory balanced budget.
Does anyone really think Smith’s proposed amendment has the slightest chance of passage? Cindy Hyde-Smith would like us to believe she does. Does she think the voters of Mississippi are so naive? All we see is a newly appointed senator who already is voting as she is instructed by the D.C. establishment, a senator who votes against a valid plan to balance the budget while simultaneously offering a “balanced budget amendment” that has no chance of ever passing, a senator who says what she thinks voters want to hear, knowing full well that, if she has her way, she will never have to balance the federal budget.
So who is the real snake oil sales person in this game?