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PUBLIC FORUM : MANY READERS SKEPTICAL OF BALANCED BUDGET EDICT.

Watch out for anyone, especially a politician, who tells you that we need a balanced-budget amendment or some such mandatory law. Those are the same people who will cut your legs off and say, ``Hey, don't blame us - it's the law.''

I certainly support fiscal responsibility in government. I will support almost any balanced budget. But we must pay those people to make the hard choices, not excuses. I'm not about to support any general law that lets them off the hook because they surely will take the easy way out. And you know that is straight through our pocketbooks.

- Roger Walton

North Hills

Why amend the Constitution to balance a budget?

The president can propose and Congress can pass budgets every year that will balance the budget if it needs to be balanced.

There may be years when national interest would be better served by a deficit. The deficit could be made up in years of a robust economy. In fact, deficit spending by the average homeowner has greatly expanded home ownership. It has provided greater independence for young people to raise their children without the interference of living in an extended family or restrictions by landlords and neighbors on the behavior of their children.

We pass bond issues to provide long-term improvements that are paid for over their life by those who enjoy their benefits.

Need for a balanced-budget amendment is based on the record of political expediency indulged by the presidents and the Congress for at least the memory of all present generations. If they put the well-being of the nation first, ahead of partisan politics and personal gain and power, and they exercised good stewardship and judgment, it would not be needed.

It will not be a panacea; politicians have always shown great creativity in getting what they want and convincing us that it is ``in our best interest,'' They also find ways to punish the voters for trying to control them; it would, however, be political suicide to use it to attack Social Security. We will be impressed by the many ``dangers'' posed by the amendment and how it must be watered down - if passed - in order to ``protect us.''

- Max M. Lester

Tarzana

For years, I held lukewarm support for amending the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget - lukewarm because, while I wholeheartedly support balancing the budget, I have little confidence in Congress' ability to adopt a measure with teeth enough to hold them to it.

Then I read a pithy article by George Mason University Professor Walter Williams, which persuaded me that a balanced-budget amendment will have little, if any, beneficial effect on Congress' spending habits, largely because there is no punitive provision.

If Congress decides it wants to, it may merely ignore the amendment without penalty, as it does now with other laws, such as Gramm-Rudman and the Bill of Rights.

Williams proposes instead, and I heartily endorse, a spending cap amendment that would limit Congress' ability to spend funds in excess of a percentage of the gross domestic product. In fact, a measure has been introduced into Congress by Rep. Jon Kyl of Arizona whereby Congress could spend no more than 19 percent of the annual GNP. What I would add to the bill is a punitive clause stating that in any year where Congress fails to meet the terms of the amendment, all perks would cease and congressional salaries would be cut to 50 percent of normal until Congress did its duty and brought the spending in line with the amendment.

As an additional benefit, since Congress always wants more money to spend, tying the spending cap to the GNP would provide incentive to increase the GNP by creating more jobs and otherwise undoing some of the grave economic damage done in recent years by such travesties as NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

- Susan Kennedy

Sun Valley

We do not need a balanced-budget amendment - we need a balanced-budget commitment.

- Bill Clarke

Van Nuys

Do we need a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution? Most assuredly, yes.

Despite the reductions in the growth of the deficit since President Clinton was elected, the national debt has grown from $4 trillion to $5.3 trillion.

Promises by politicians to balance the budget five years from now are just so much political hot air. If they were really serious about fiscal restraint, they would bring the budget into balance in the current year.

The fact of the matter is that the politicians in Washington have not produced a balanced budget in over 25 years. Meanwhile, the interest on our debt is now more than we spend on national defense.

There are provisions in the current proposal for an amendment to allow for debt adjustments in the case of a recession or a war. Thus, there is no financial straitjacket.

And the arguments, used mostly by Democrats, that Social Security would be endangered, are just a ruse to avoid the financial responsibility by Congress to protect the futures of our children and grandchildren.

- Thomas Jebb

Camarillo

Instead of introducing a balanced-budget amendment, Congress should introduce a cut-spending amendment.

The problem with an amendment to balance the budget is that there are several ways to balance a budget: Raise our taxes, cut spending or both.

Because Congress has not cut spending enough to balance the budget, I believe that a balanced-budget amendment will become the excuse to raise taxes.

- Elliott S. Graham, Director

United Organizations of Taxpayers

Glendale

I believe a balanced-budget amendment is mandatory. My decision is based on the past history of our elected officials. Over the past decades we have had a number of bills that have required our Congress to balance the budget, such as the Gramm-Rudman Act. This act, as with others, meant nothing to our Congress; it just kept spending and expanding government.

But I would add a few conditions. Any increase in spending and/or taxes over a certain level must be approved by a 60 percent vote of the taxpayers, not Congress. The budget must include a percentage to cover special circumstances such as a recession, natural disaster, etc.; a ``major'' war may be an exception. The set-aside monies not used during that fiscal year must be applied to reduce our national debt.

I am not a strong believer in an amendment, but based on the past performance of our elected officials, it seems our only choice.

- Charles Dusheck

Chatsworth

I call instead for a spending limit amendment.

I feel the liberal Democrats will use the balanced-budget amendment to force ``emergencies'' to raise more funds for bigger government.

I don't feel it would straitjacket the government, since the government can sell assets, etc., to meet obligations.

I would cut internal government waste, then realign and audit the government to meet balanced budget amendment needs.

- Steve Russell

Glendale

We do not need a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. We do not need the president or Congress to attempt to solve this problem either. They are the cause of the problem and they don't have a clue as to what to do.

The best we can expect from them is more trickle-down voodoo economics.

Just look at what a mess our politicians have made of the income tax system; that is a good example of their incompetence. Then when they do get their hands on our tax money, they waste so much of it. They just don't have what it takes to be good money managers.

A Howard Jarvis-Proposition 13 approach would be a good start to bringing the federal budget under control.

- Conrad Hubert

North Hollywood

Postscripts on panhandling topic

Priority mail brought a package this week from a friend in Santa Clarita. The contents had been thoughtfully wrapped in a copy of the Feb. 8 Public Forum, which I paused to read. I was caught by the word ``Anti-begging law'' in a headline (the topic was a proposed Los Angeles city ordinance to discourage aggressive panhandling) next to a cartoon of politicians saying, ``We're not cheap . . . but we can be had.''

It is reassuring to note that some of your readers echoed my own longtime and often expressed opinion that political fund raising is a form of orchestrated panhandling.

In either case, the ``gift'' is recycled. One ``beggar'' uses the take for daily sustenance of choice. The other applies it toward buying a job, generally paying considerably less than the purchase price. Neither cares who the donor is, or from whence came the green.

Finally, it is comforting to note considerable ``coast-to-coast'' concern over the status quo. Continuing to grease those palms outstretched for gratuities serves only to fortify the belief that Uncle Sap is us.

- Sara Hewitt Riola

Lakewood, N.J.

I noticed that in all the letters printed on Feb. 8 and 9 alleging that panhandlers are ``rude,'' ``abusive,'' ``harassing,'' ``intimidating'' and ``aggressive,'' not a single concrete example was given that would reasonably justify this kind of name calling.

So I can only go by what my own experiences have been. These people have offered me more smiles than I get at my local mall, more ``thank you's'' than I get at work, and as many ``God bless you's'' as if I'd gone to church.

- Arturo Fernandez

West Hills
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Feb 15, 1997
Words:1554
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