Quietly, under the cloak of the Christmas holiday, the Democrat majority Congress raised the nation's debt limit - just enough to last us through February, possibly March, before federal checks start bouncing.The Republicans were complicit in this way - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell forged an agreement with Majority leader Harry Reid to raise the debt limit every two months or so, rather than in one large lump, in return for allowing members of the Senate to recess early on Christmas Eve after the early morning vote passing healthcare.
Why would McConnell do this? Simple! It keeps the nation's debt, now 12-trillion and growing, before the public throughout 2010, an election year. Good political strategy perhaps, but it does nothing to reduce that debt.
The Republicans don't have the numbers to stop the spending. Democrats like Evan Bayh are cowards who won't stand up to their leadership. Bayh voted against the latest $446-billion omnibus spending bill, with all earmarks in place, after assurance there were enough Democrats and Republicans to pass the bill without his affirmative vote. So he could cast a no vote and take political cover from concerned voters back home whom he will face for reelection in 2010.
Such political posturing is unseemly and cowardly.
There is a way to halt the run-away spending and force budgetary rationality in Washington - a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-Minnesota) has just inserted it into the public discussion.
Such a constitutional amendment can be proposed two ways. Congress can pass a proposed amendment by a two-thirds majority vote of both houses and then submit it to the states for approval.
Don't hold your breath!
Another way is for two-thirds of state legislatures, like Indiana's and others shafted by the healthcare bill and other legislation coming out of Congress, to call a constitutional convention. The convention appointees from those states could propose a simply worded amendment that the federal government can spend only the money it takes in as revenue and not go into debt except in the case of major war and national calamity.
The state's constitutional convention would then submit the proposed amendment to all state legislatures. Three quarters of state legislatures or their appointed constitutional conventions would have to approve the constitutional amendment for it to become part of our historic document that the first constitutional convention began framing in 1787.
Indiana's constitution requires a balanced budget. Why not the federal government? It is a proposal whose time has come.