How to Control Congress

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Let’s assume that each of our 535 congressmen cares about the destructive impact of deficits and debt on the future of our country. Regardless of party, congressmen face enormous lobbying pressures and awards to spend more and little or no pressure and awards to spend less. The nation’s founders would be horrified by today’s congressional spending that consumes 25 percent of our GDP. Contrast that to the years 1787 to the 1920s when federal government spending never exceeded 4 percent of our GDP except in wartime. Today, federal, state and local government consumes 43 percent of what Americans produce each year. The Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation computes that the average taxpayer is forced to work from Jan. 1 to mid-April to pay federal, state and local taxes. If he were taxed enough to pay the $1.5 trillion federal deficit, he’d be forced to work until mid-May.

Tax revenue is not the problem. The federal government has collected just about 20 percent of the nation’s GDP almost every year since 1960. Federal spending has exceeded revenue for most of that period and has taken an unprecedented leap since 2008 to produce today’s massive deficit. Since federal spending is the problem, that’s where our focus should be.

Cutting spending is politically challenging. Every spending constituency sees its handout as vital, whether it’s Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid recipients or farmers, poor people, educators or the military. It’s easy for congressmen to say yes to these spending constituencies because whether it’s Democrats or Republicans in control, they face no hard and fast bottom line.

The bottom line that Americans need is a constitutional amendment limiting congressional spending to some fraction, say 20 percent, of the GDP. That limit could be exceeded only if the president declared a state of emergency along with a two-thirds vote of approval in both houses of Congress.

Each year of a declared state of emergency would require another two-thirds vote in each house.

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  • Shaun

    Given the outright contempt that members of Congress have shown our Constitution lately – using “cost of living adjustments” to give themselves concurrent raises to sidestep the clear intent of the 27th Amendment and attempts by Pelosi and Barney Frank to impose special taxes on bonuses and executive salaries which are ex post facto in effect and Bills of Attainder in their intended effect, why should anyone expect that they would respect an Amendment limiting their power to spend? They would ignore it and their example of blatant disrespect would spread to the rest of society and our Constitution would become a mere symbol with less impact on the running of government than that of the British monarchy over the government of the UK. The only difference would be that the monarch would continue to enjoy some esteem whereas our Constitution would have become ad irrelevant to our politics as have the numerous past constitutions of third world nations.

  • dgene

    Go baby, go!

  • lisag

    It's the spending! It's the spending! It's the spending! Save a congressman's soul by putting in a spending cap. Taxes never solved anything, they only in crease spending.

  • Philosopherking

    I like your idea but if you set a limit such as 20% the governments will simply set tax rates at 20%. I would like to see total taxes taken at about 2% for the average person.