Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: BUDGET AMENDMENT POLITICS MAKE FOR SOME UNUSUAL ALLIES Series: Balancing the Budget: Amending the Constitution SECOND of FIVE in an Occasional Series

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: BUDGET AMENDMENT POLITICS MAKE FOR SOME UNUSUAL ALLIES Series: Balancing the Budget: Amending the Constitution SECOND of FIVE in an Occasional Series

Article excerpt

THINK YOU KNOW who supports a balanced budget amendment? Think again. Who and why are far from predictable on this one.

Take liberal former Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., a longtime supporter. He believes constitutional discipline is the only way to get Americans to accept the tax increases required for the federal spending they like.

Phyllis Schlafly of Ladue, the arch conservative head of the Eagle Forum, believes Simon's analysis is dead on. That's why she opposes the amendment. Simon and Schlafly aren't the only surprises. Strict constitutional constructionist Robert H. Bork in the anti-amendment camp. And Simon's Illinois colleague, Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, is among 11 Senate Democrats who support the amendment. The positions of Simon and Schlafly challenge the rhetorical stereotypes of this debate. Are the amendment's supporters heartless conservatives? Not Simon. Are the opponents fringe liberals? Not Schlafly. Simon Learns A Lesson Simon, now a professor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, explains his thinking this way: "We just got through an election where both sides promised tax cuts and that doesn't make any sense. We should be getting a hold on things, but ins tead we're borrowing from our children so that we can live in a little more comfort today." Absent a constitutional amendment that would "force us to do some unpopular things," Simon said, Congress will eventually face hard choices: dramatic tax increases or drastic cuts in entitlements such as Social Security. He fears that politicians, being politicians, will choose neither and instead will "just start printing more money. It's the easy way out." It's a lesson as old as the first economic writings of Adam Smith, Simon said. "They keep piling up the debt and then they debase the coin." Simon learned the lesson early. As an Illinois state legislator, he opposed a big bond issue even though it was slated to fund higher education and mental health, two of his favorite causes. …

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