Balanced federal budget desperately needed

By Ken Shea

Many thanks to the Makeshift Coffee House Group and the Flexit Café in particular for hosting the forum on the U.S. Constitution at Ellsworth High School on Feb. 10. The session was well run and very informative. I left with a greater appreciation of the wisdom of the Founding Fathers for crafting a document that has served our democratic republic so well for 230 years. The brilliance of the document is perhaps best demonstrated by the stringent requirements to modify the Constitution and not treat it as a living document.

I was somewhat disappointed that much of the discussion suggested amendments that would guarantee additional benefits, such as taxpayer-funded health care and no suggestion that the 28th Amendment should require a balanced budget. The American provides a very worthy service on the front page of every edition. This week the federal debt was reported to be over $22 trillion, with each citizen’s share being over $67,000. Mark Hendrickson wrote an excellent commentary in the Dec. 13 edition of The Ellsworth American explaining that within just a few years the United States will be spending more on the interest to support the debt service than it will on national defense. Unfortunately, the elected Washington politicians of the two major parties and so-called independents such as Bernie Sanders and Angus King are so addicted to spending other people’s money that they have no concern for this looming problem. The current progressive agenda of the left certainly indicates that they do not consider the national debt or increasing our current level of taxation a problem.

In addition to our federal debt obligation, each taxpayer also has an obligation for their share of local municipal and state debt. My estimate is that those of us who live in the highly taxed municipality of Ellsworth have approximately another $4,000 of debt responsibility and this is likely to increase substantially if the city proceeds with a multimillion-dollar public safety building. I have no idea what each of our share of the state of Maine debt is, but I am sure it is substantial.

We would do well to pay heed to the comments of previous world leaders. John Adams is reported, although disputed by some, to have said, “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” A century and a half later, President Gerald Ford observed that “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” And perhaps most appropriate for our current discussions is Margaret Thatcher’s well-known point, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money to spend.” I fear that one or more of the above three leaders has prophesized the future of the United States unless we make significant changes in our spending habits. A balanced budget constitutional amendment would bring some short-term pain, but it is needed to save the republic.

Kenneth R. Shea of Ellsworth is the president of E.L. Shea Inc.

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