Reforming Reformation by Daniel B. Rundquist
Special to the Caldwell Journal…A lot of folks think that Congress just passed a measure that will bring tax reform. Well that’s a nice thought, but it’s only that. The bill was even widely talked about as “tax reform” but this is not so. This got me thinking about the broader notion of reform and what citizens should be looking for when politicians began to try to sell us on this feature of their plans.
The recent tax bill is a good example of a non-reform measure packaged and sold as reform. It is not. While the merits and demerits of the law can be debated, what it appears to do is simply shift around the burden of the tax in different ways to different people for different reasons—but be assured, government does not take less from the people overall, and that is one reason why it is truly not a reform.
An example of a policy that looks a little more like reform without upsetting the apple cart of tax brackets would be a ten-year tax plan: year one, government cuts all budgets for all spending by 5% and correspondingly, all rate brackets drop by 5%. This is repeated for a total of three years. Year four sees the same program with a 2.5% drop, and year five sees a 1% drop. Years six through ten see the same 1% per year cut in spending, but this reduction in spending is applied directly to paying down the principle on the national debt. In this way, government reduces its size, spends less, and takes away less money from the people who pay taxes in whatever tax bracket they are in. Yes, this idea represents a large cut is spending. Correct.
This measure would automatically require less taxation and deal with deficit spending. It would force government to choose which programs need funding rather than allowing them to continue to grow every government agency through the current system of baseline budgeting. For once, government would be required to tighten its belt, and, why shouldn’t they? Have you noticed that the United States is now $21 trillion dollars in debt? There are other tax plans like the flat tax and the fair tax that would also represent an actual reform; I am not suggesting that my little scheme is the best one.
So, what programs get cut? Well that of course is up to Congress to manage. It would be impossible for me here to get into those details, but I do recommend another measure. For the eight years under President Obama, our Congress refused to pass a budget. They operated on what is called continuing resolutions (CR). These short-term spending bills basically allow government to operate at its same level without ever passing a budget. They are normally good for a few months at a time, are typically renewed over and over, and were primarily used as political cover for the congress at the time. Why? Because hammering out an actual budget requires that all spending proposals be examined, debated in the open, and negotiated. This exposes the elected officials to potential criticism come election year. Most of that embarrassment can be avoided by simply passing a CR instead. We are operating the nation under a CR presently here in January 2018. This is not the process required by the U.S. Constitution.
It is the job of Congress to pass a budget. When people choose not to do their job, there are consequences, and this task is one the few actually called out specifically for Congress in the Constitution. It is serious business. As an American citizen, a voter, and a taxpayer, I have every right to expect that my elected officials fulfill their constitutionally mandated tasks to which they swore an oath to execute when they were elected. Consequently, if they fail to pass a budget for any given year, they should be recalled immediately—fired. It does not matter what the cirmstances are, the consequences of not passing a balanced budget and instead relying upon CR after CR to run the government is absolutely not acceptable. This measure would force Congress to do its job, and send home the ones who choose not to.
Term limits are another big policy that would cause the power base in Washington to shift away from the political class back to the citizens, and it is needed now more than ever. If we could get only one measure passed let it be term limits.
None of these plans are ever likely to be seriously considered or adopted because our political class likes things the way they are today. If that were not so, why have they not changed anything already? No, they are comfortable with the present arrangement, no matter how uncomfortable it makes the citizenry, and they will fight against anyone who challenges the system they have worked so hard to maintain. But we still do not need “reform” here.
Frankly, I get a bit queasy when I hear our elected officials and the media using the word, “reform.” I hope that we do not continue to see this word used in reference to legislative agendas in the future. If we accept the premise that “America needs reform” and then allow policies of “reform” it is akin to the people of the United States giving a third party (in this case, the government itself) free license to change whatever they want as they see fit—and such measures should never be allowed or promoted in that fashion. American government does not need reform. Our Constitutional Framers already did that when they moved the nation from operating under the Articles of Confederation to the ratification of the Constitutional Republic we have in motion today.
The last thing the nation needs is for some perhaps well-intentioned wizards of smart to monkey with the Constitution under the guise of “reform.” Most likely these “reformers” would not be the statesmen that we would want in handling this, but instead lawyers hired by the political class to rearrange matters to help further consolidate power and money to Washington. The United States Constitution is not the problem in America. The fact that our government continually operates outside of its defined boundaries is.
What I propose instead of any program of dubious “reform” is rather a series of policies for a better and more appropriate term, restoration. The government should be restored to its constitutionally defined size, role, and scope. With the debt so high today it’s easy to remember that government has supersized itself over the past fifteen years or so. A constitutional federal government is a small government when you read the document. It is a less expensive government. It is not a bloated, wasteful monster, continually growing itself; that has placed itself in charge of everything from providing your health care to regulating the amount of water in your toilet.
Let the Constitution become our litmus test for all legislative proposals. Congress thinks it already has a process for doing this. I think there is enough evidence to prove otherwise. When I read through the U.S. Constitution I do not see words like, “Environmental Protection Agency” or “appropriations for abortion” listed there. We have a long and hard road ahead if restoration of the American Republic is ever to be achieved. It is our responsibility to send the right folks to Washington to do the job.