Dear Governor – and future President! – Pawlenty,
Your Monday op-ed on Politico.com ("Ponzi Scheme on the Potomac") was an intellectual, political, and personal revelation for me. I am a changed man. You offer a rare combination of political acumen, wordsmithery, and an almost preternatural understanding of economics. Washington needs you. We need you. More importantly, we need the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) you've proposed here. Most Republicans harp on "cutting spending" without offering specific proposals for doing so. But you have a very specific proposal – pass a balanced budget amendment. Visionary!
I have just a few questions. Forgive me the pedantic exercise of numbering them.
1. Have you ever looked at the process of proposing, passing, and ratifying an Amendment? After getting a two-thirds vote in both Jesus H. Tap Dancing Christ houses of Congress – and what could be hard about getting 67 Senators to agree to give up the right to fund pet projects in their states? – it must then be ratified by 38 state legislatures. We can assume they will be only too happy to give up the billions in grants they receive from Congress annually.
2. The GOP, home of Tim Pawlenty and fiscal conservatism, resoundingly rejected "PAYGO" (Balanced Budget Act of 1997) in 2002 when they controlled Congress.
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It got in the way of the Medicare expansion they were using to buy elderly votes. Maybe the problem is that it wasn't appealing as mere legislation. It will be much more popular as an amendment, right?
3. The only way (more on that in a second) to balance the budget under the current circumstances will be a series of draconian tax increases. Yet your proposal clearly states "the Bush tax cuts should be made permanent and tax burdens on individuals and businesses should be further reduced." Please explain this potential discrepancy. More accurately, please clarify what I am no doubt inaccurately perceiving as a discrepancy.
4. Under a BBA, the elimination of all discretionary and military spending from the current budget would leave us $300 billion in the hole. From where would you cut this additional $300 billion – after having eliminated all discretionary spending and the entire military budget – Social Security or Medicare? Alternatively we could save a quarter-trillion by defaulting on our debt, but that would still leave us a little short. And when "the tax burdens on individuals and businesses (are) further reduced", from where will these additional billions be cut?
4a. Which will be easiest to cut: Social Security, Medicare, or the entire fucking military budget? I can't see any problems, but a liberal naysayer might try to slow the process down.
5. When the BBA is passed with stadium-sized loopholes for "wars, natural disasters, and other emergencies":
6. Like all intelligent people, you and I realize that when spending increases and deficits grow, the only way to trim the deficit is to reduce spending. I recently doubled my calorie intake and gained a lot of weight. Should I assume that cutting my calorie intake is the only way I can lose weight?
Any guidance you can offer – aside, of course, from the Jedi-like guidance you have already provided – will be greatly appreciated. Please help me help you to help me further.
With kind regards,