George F. Will: A rally cry to tame spending

Published: January 10, 2013
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Years ago, Congress decided that, to save the planet, there should be tax credits to bribe Americans to buy electric cars. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., believes it only fair that buyers of electric scooters and motorcycles, some of which are made in Oregon, not get left out of the bribery business. Thanks to the Taxpayer Relief Act, they won't.

People who choose to live in places vulnerable to flooding believe it would be unfair that the cost of their property insurance fully reflect this risk. So government subsidizes their insurance, and hence their decision to live where there is increased risk of property damage that, when it happens, the government helps pay to rebuild.

Today's government, whose railroad, Amtrak, lost $834 million over the last 10 years just on its food service, has neither wit nor will to stop subsidizing electric scooters or to reform flood insurance. Hence Republicans should rally ‘round one of several well-refined constitutional amendments requiring balanced budgets. Such an amendment would be popular everywhere, but especially in six states important in 22 months.

Republicans need to gain six seats to win Senate control in 2014, when Democrats will be defending 20 seats, Republicans only 13. Six Democratic incumbents represent states in which Barack Obama received less than 42 percent of the 2012 vote — Montana's Max Baucus (41.7), Alaska's Mark Begich (40.8), Louisiana's Mary Landrieu (40.6), South Dakota's Tim Johnson (39.9), Arkansas' Mark Pryor (36.9) and West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller (35.5).

Sixty-seven Senate votes are needed to send a proposed amendment to the states for ratification. There are 45 Republican senators. There are nowhere near 22 Democrats who would vote for an amendment Republicans could support. Still, Republicans, whose divisions cause Democratic gloating, could use a balanced budget amendment to divide Democrats who threw the remnants of their fiscal self-respect off the cliff.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP