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Larry Elder / April 28, 2022

If/When Republicans Win Back Congress — Then What?

Under the Constitution, Article V allows states the power to call a Convention of States to propose amendments. It’s our only hope to stop the spending rampage.

Republicans look poised to retake the House and perhaps even the Senate in November. After all, crime is hitting levels not seen since the 1990s. In January, the Wall Street Journal wrote: “Several cities set new records for murders last year. Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., Louisville, Ky., and Albuquerque, N.M., had their deadliest years on record. Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth largest city, had 562 homicides surpassing its previous high of 500 set in 1990.” In Chicago this past weekend, 7 people were killed and 36 others shot, making it the city’s most violent weekend of the year.

Inflation has not been this bad since the early 1980s. USA Today recently wrote: “Consumer prices climbed further into the stratosphere in March, and the only consolation is that the painful bout of skyrocketing costs may have peaked. Inflation hit a fresh 40-year high as continuing surges in gasoline, food and rent costs more than offset moderating prices for used cars.”

The number of attempted illegal entries last fiscal year (which ends in September) was at the highest level since 1960, when the U.S. Border Patrol started recording illegal entry attempts. Biden’s disastrous pullout from Afghanistan has frightened friends and allies and emboldened enemies.

As campaign issues used against Democrats go, this is low-hanging fruit. But what is the Republican plan to rein in spending and the size and intrusiveness of government, given that most of the spending is on automatic pilot?

Medicare/Medicaid/Obamacare take the biggest chunk, and combined with Social Security these programs (aka “entitlements”) take more than half of government (aka “taxpayer”) dollars. Next is income security, which includes general retirement and disability insurance; federal employee retirement, disability and military retirement; unemployment compensation; housing assistance; nutrition assistance; foster care; Supplemental Security Income; and the earned income and child tax credits. They are followed, in decreasing order, by national security and interest on the debt. Combined, these programs consume almost all federal spending.

When then-President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, Republicans called it costly, intrusive and a giant leap toward the Democrats’ ultimate health care goal: single-payer. Republicans vowed to repeal it. Candidate Donald Trump promised “to replace Obamacare with something better.” But Obamacare became increasingly popular, and Republicans failed to offer a “replacement.” Republicans stopped calling for its repeal.

When Ronald Reagan first ran for California governor in 1966, his opponents were quick to point out that he said that Social Security should be “voluntary.” After the attack, he dropped the idea and never again suggested it. As a presidential candidate in 1980, Reagan promised to abolish the new Department of Education. By the time he left office eight years later, however, the department had not only survived, but was bigger than when he entered office.

Former President George W. Bush promoted a plan to allow workers to direct a portion of their Social Security contribution into a private savings account that could be used to invest into the stock market. Democrats pounced, calling the “privatization” plan risky and dangerous. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., later called Bush’s increasingly unpopular idea a “political gift” for Democrats. Republicans, who once supported the idea, ran away from it, and Bush dropped it.

Both parties spend. But campaigning to reduce, let alone take away programs is political suicide. And there is increasingly less discussion or even concern about the growing national debt. The only path forward is to tie the hands of Congress through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that fixes government spending to a set percentage of our gross domestic product, with exceptions for war or natural disasters.

Under the Constitution, Article V allows states the power to call a Convention of States to propose amendments. Thirty-four states must agree to do so. Last month, South Carolina joined, putting the number of states calling for a convention at 19. More than halfway there. It’s our only hope to stop the spending rampage. Few Republicans are calling for this. Their silence is deafening.

COPYRIGHT 2022 LAURENCE A. ELDER

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