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o gewili k %Ibi Sea Horse Inn Kitchenettes Cable TV 11: Heated Pool ?* beside Hie Gulf of Mexico on Mustang Island Available for private parties r a k Unique European Charm MOLLY IVINS Balanced-Budget Lunacy It’s always fascinating, in a horrible way, to watch our government do something that is both profoundly stupid and utterly useless. It’s like watching a train wreck about to happenyou can’t take your eyes off it. Like the time they shut down the government or the time they passed the Defense of Marriage Act. \(Everybody’s marriage is balanced-budget amendment, one of those non-solutions that sounds so simple and sensible that even politicians who know better are driven to vote for it. Be sure to check out the upcoming vote on the amendment, just to see if your congressperson has the guts to vote against something enormously popular and incredibly dumb. This is where the profiles in courage get written. The balanced-budget amendment will not, of course, balance the budget. The only way to balance the budget is by raising taxes or cutting spending or both. Passing a balanced-budget amendment does not raise taxes or cut spending. What the thing actually says is that it will henceforth require the votes of three-fifths of Congress to spend more than we take in within a given year, unless there’s a war on. This is the kind of dummkopf stunt we’re always pulling in Texas, the national laboratory of bad government. Even in Texas, however, we have enough sense to separate our capital budget from our operating budget. Next time you hear some sententious nitwit announce that “the governors all have to meet a balanced-budget requirement every year,” remind him that the states balance only their operating budgets. Cities, counties, school districts, water districts and states are always borrowing money. Ever hear of a bond issue? Then there’s the even more dimwitted argument that “families have to balance their budgets.” For heaven’s sake, families borrow to buy homes that cost 300 or 400 percent more than their annual incomes. Corporations operate successfully with enormous debt loads. No one pays cash for infrastructure. Then there is the slight problem of recessions and even depressions, to which capi 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER talist economies are prone. Ever since John Maynard Keynes wrote The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money in 1936, most of us have been able to grasp its import. If your economy is in a recession and you then sharply cut back on government spending, this will cause economic activity to plunge even more, and is likely to send your economy into a full-blown depression. Unfortunately, we all grasped Keynes’ thesis that you can spend your way out of depression; we’ve just been a little too careless in following his advice to be prudent during the good times. Look at the Washington Spectator. Economist Frederick Thayer has studied the history of our balanced-budget crusades and has come up with some depressing statistics. We have had six major depressions in our history \(1819, 1837, 1857, lowed sustained periods of reducing the national debt. We have had almost chronic deficits since the 1930s, and there has been no depression since thenthe longest crash-free period in our history. In theory, we want to reduce the debt so we will not leave this “crushing burden” \(it is mandatory in political debate to describe dren. Unfortunately, young people are equally crushed by unemployment and by being saddled with the care of their parents in their old age. Again in theory, public borrowing and spending are wasteful and damaging because they do not produce goods that will be sold in the marketplace. A bridge, for example, has no market valueexcept that you can’t get your goods to the market or even have a marketplace without bridges, roads, dams, etc. A bridge is just as much of an investment as a factory. One major reason President Clinton was re-elected is that so many of us recognize that educating our children well is the best and most important investment we will ever make. Clean air, clean water and adequate nutrition pay off pretty well, too. Of course, the government can go overboard in borrowingwe did during the Reagan years. We’d have a balanced budget right now if it weren’t for the $2 trillion debt run up . during the Reagan administration. That was the last time I ever believed the old canard that Republicans are fiscally responsible. Reagan was so pathetic that the Democratic Congress actually forced him to cut spending in the last years. Three-fifthsgood grief. As New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis points out, that means that one more than 40 percent of either house of Congress could block action on nearly every piece of legislation, which is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Do we really want to give these people 40percent-plus-one veto power over everything the government does? Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist for the Fort Worth StarTelegram. & A tino.sphere AFFORDABLE RATES ‘;,_ Pets Welcome le 1423 lith Strcet 11’ , Port Aransas, TX 78373 / ……~.14, 41, ok. ,..,………. call j for Reservations I ,…. ..Ardell e s lo v e ir DECEMBER 6, 1996 Aff