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The only solution to runaway federal spending

Taxes and debt are bad, but federal spending is the more serious illness in Washington, DC.

Federal spending today is driven by one overriding purpose—Congress is buying votes with programs.

In round numbers, the federal government brings in $2 trillion a year in tax revenues while it spends $3 trillion a year on federal programs. This means that in order to balance the budget, every taxpayer would have to increase his federal tax payments by 50%. So if you are paying $10,000 a year now, the feds would need $15,000 from you every year to sustain their spending. If you are paying $60,000 now, your “balanced budget” tax bill will be $90,000.

Someone is going to have to pay for all of these programs. And, at least currently, that someone is our children and grandchildren—and the generations beyond. And they will have their own governmental expenses to bear as well. This is simply unsustainable. A crash is coming.

But consider this: If the federal government spent money only on the subjects for which the Constitution actually gives it jurisdiction, the federal budget would be around $1 trillion a year. Two-thirds of the federal budget—including the funding for all of the entitlement programs which are the real engine of this runaway train—is spent on subjects which the Constitution left to the states.

Because the states cannot simply print money, the use of debt by state governments is necessarily very limited. So transferring most domestic spending back to the states would make the current, unsustainable level of spending a political impossibility.

The only solution to runaway spending is to fix the structure. The Supreme Court damaged the structure when it upheld FDR’s massive domestic spending programs, interpreting the General Welfare Clause as giving Congress the power to spend money on anything it wanted.

The solution is this: We need to restate the General Welfare Clause to read something like, “Congress may not spend money on any domestic subject matter within the jurisdiction of the states."

This principle is absolutely consistent with the original meaning of the Constitution. But it has been lost through bad interpretations. This language would make the principle clear and unavoidable. Even the Supreme Court couldn’t mess it up.

I don’t want to live in a country where there are no effective constitutional limits on the power of Congress to spend.

Structure is the key to preserving liberty.  Let’s fix the structure.

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