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Texans Support a Balanced Budget `for Joe Blow’ “Joe Blow out there believes the balanced budget means something.” By Al Watkins Washington, D.C. IT WAS ONE OF THOSE sultry days that make Washington summers so unbearable, the temperature and the humidity in the mid-90s, even the faintest breeze a rare luxury. Anyone with even a modicum of common sense stayed inside, . while President Reagan, Vice President Bush, the Cabinet, more than 200 members of Congress including the entire Republican leadership, approximately 5,000 curious onlookers, and this Observer reporter spent their lunch hour broiling in the noon-time sun. The occasion was a White Housesponsored rally on the Capitol steps for Reagan’s latest economic cure-all the balanced budget constitutional amendment. After a D.C. youth band played “Hail to the Chief” and the president started speaking, most of the crowd scurried to the air-conditioned office buildings that surround the Capitol. Those who stayed heard the president declare that “balancing the budget is like protecting your virtue. You just have to learn to say no.” Apparently, most members of Congress, including many from the Texas delegation, believe they haven’t said no often enough. So to protect their virtue, they are lining up in droves behind the president’s proposal, even though most of them have not the slightest notion of how they will cut spending and raise taxes enough to balance the budget. Even worse, they are backing an amendment which some Republicans admit candidly is nothing but a political ploy to deflect attention from the economy’s dismal performance. “It’s a political thing and it’s got a lot of political mileage in it,” one cynical GOP aide told the Washington Post. “Joe Blow out there believes the balanced budget means something.” Political ploy or not, Reagan’s push for the amendment may have actually prevented yahoos like Walter “Mad Dog” Mengden and Jerry Falwell from doing even worse damage to the Constitution. Had Reagan not prodded Congress, the states could have invoked a little-known constitutional provision mandating a constitutional convention whenever 34 states request one. So far, 31 states, including Texas, have acted, and supporters of the amendment confidently predict they could rally support in three more states by early next year. The problem with a convention, however, is that no one knows for sure if its agenda could be limited to writing a balanced budget amendment or whether the convention would be empowered to rewrite the entire constitution, say by restricting the bill of rights, mandating school prayer, and forbidding abortion and school busing. Other than sidetracking a convention, there is little else to recommend the proposed amendment. It was drafted by the National Tax Limitation Committee, a right-wing California foundation which lists such luminaries as Arthur Godfrey and Milton Friedman as members of its board of directors. Milton Friedman, of course, made his reputation by arguing that tight money, tax and budget cuts, and deregulation would lead to unparalleled prosperity. Before Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher tried his remedies with no apparent success, they were tested in Chile, where a military dictatorship did succeed in reducing inflation dramatically. The only trouble is that Friedman’s policies seem to work best when accompanied by torture, executions, and mass jailings of dissidents. Since the National Tax Limitation Committee believes that Congress has been too willing to provide social services to the poor and entitlements like Social Security and veterans pensions to the middle class, they are looking for a way to enforce austerity without importing Chilean methods to the U.S. With their proposed amendment, they may have discovered a device that will do the trick. Under the terms of the proposed amendment,. Congress will be forced to adopt a balanced budget every year unless 60% of the members in each house specifically vote for a deficit. A second provision essentially mandates annual tax cuts. In this way, the proponents expect to all but outlaw new programs \(and prevent future Congresses from reversguarantee that current deficits will be eliminated by slashing current programs still further. At the same time, they are betting that popular support for balanced budgets coupled with the lure of continuous tax reductions will entice Congress to send the amendment to the states for ratification. But no matter how hard they try, Congress will be hard-pressed to produce a balanced budget anytime soon. Business Week recently reported that internal White House documents show that even after this year’s tax and spending increases are enacted, the deficit will soon top $220 billion. The Congressional Budget Office and Federal Reserve Board, meanwhile, are forecasting $150 billion deficits for each of the next three years. With deficits like these, a balanced budget is nothing but a distant fantasy it can be achieved only if Congress either repeals many of the tax breaks it gave the oil industry and other large corporations, cuts Social Security benefits by nearly 50%, or slashes defense spending. Congress, however, is currently raising defense spending and Reagan would probably veto any significant tax increases. That leaves only Social Security, the one program where even minor cuts are tantamount to political suicide and where major cuts will have to made. With the exception of Ron Paul, a 4 AUGUST 20, 1982