Den amerikanske skatteaktivist Grover Norquist har som bekendt sagt, at han mener, at den offentlige sektor skal være så lille, at man kan drukne den i et badekar. Men mindre kan vel også gøre det. Altså: noget mindre drastisk.
I dagens Wall Street Journal har den fhv. Republikanske præsidentkandidat og guvernør i Delaware Pete Du Pont en konstruktiv kronik med den sigende titel “Don’t Spend, Amend”, som amerikanerne i disse tider kunne have brug for–og som ambitiøse danske forfatningsarkitekter som Niels Helveg Petersen og Svend Auken måske burde læse. I kronikken slår Du Pont til lyds for at sætte forfatningsmæssige restriktioner på de offentlige udgifter:
How big, how expensive and how fiscally generous to industries and local communities should America’s national government be?
The spending policies of the current administration have made this the central domestic public policy question, for government has substantially grown under the leadership of a political party that for many decades has claimed to be the party of smaller government.
The real annual growth rate of federal government outlays is nearly at its highest modern percentage. Under President Clinton it was only 1.5%, under Ronald Reagan 2.6% and under Lyndon Johnson 5.7%. Spending has grown 5.6% a year since George W. Bush took office, and it seems likely to keep rising. Of course the war in Iraq is a part of it, but the current administration’s domestic spending increase is 7.1% a year, the highest since the 1960s. …
The president has signed on to whatever spending increases Congress has chosen to enact. He promised to veto the transportation bill if it contained more than $256 billion in spending. It contained $295 billion, and he signed it anyway. …
But the better solution to the huge increase in federal spending would be a constitutional amendment to hold the growth of federal spending to specific percentages of revenue unless there is a supermajority override by both houses of Congress. It is not a new idea–Delaware, for example, passed a constitutional amendment in 1980, when I was governor, to limit state government spending to 98% of revenue unless there is a three-fifths vote of each legislative house to spend more. The extra 2% goes into a Rainy Day Fund–the kind of fund that could be used for relief in Katrina-type national catastrophes. The amendment has produced 25 consecutive years of balanced Delaware budgets, a fiscal discipline that the federal government needs even more that state governments do.
Another approach is the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or Tabor, which Colorado put into place via a constitutional amendment in 1992. It limits annual state government spending to inflation plus population growth, with any extra revenue going back to the taxpayers. From 1995 to 2000 Colorado ranked first in the nation in GDP growth and second in personal income growth. Its success has generated a furious effort to allow more spending that will be on the 2006 ballot.
Amending the Constitution is not easy, but is the best solution to the long term spending challenges that have faced every modern president since the Great Depression of the 1930s. And offering it up in our troubled big spending times would energize a policy debate that America needs to have.