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Missing the Point on Gramm-Rudman


By Kris Kobach

To the Editors of the Crimson:

In a Crimson editorial on February 11, Jonathan Moses applauds a recent federal appeals court decision declaring the Gramm-Rudman law unconstitutional. Mr. Moses makes several faulty arguments, prompting me to offer this rebuttal. His editorial correctly assesses the grim picture of Capitol Hill in which Congressmen are paralyzed by special interest groups and PACs. Such lobbying pressures make it difficult, if not impossible, for Congressmen to cut budgets. However, Mr. Moses loses all perspective on reality when he attempts to justify the court's decision, and calls for courageous Congressmen to "take a stand" as an alternative to Gramm-Rudman.

He claims that the court struck down the law because it was "the wimps way out" for Congress. This claim is bogus for two reasons. First, Congressmen really are "wimps"--to the extent that reelection pressures and special interests overwhelm any desire to bring down the budgetary axe. Any freshman in Gov 30 could prove this point. This lack of individual power to do good in Congress is the price we pay for our fragmented system. It's well worth the cost because it also prevents individuals from abusing authority. Second, Mr. Moses completely ignores the real reason for the ruling--the enforcement mechanism (of OMB and CAO mandatory cuts) puts direct executive power in the legislative branch through the CAO. This decision hardly makes the law useless. A simple revision transferring responsibility solely to the OMB (in the executive branch) would snuff out this objection.

Mr. Moses then dubs Rep. Mike Synar (D-Md.) a "hero" for standing up to special interests and taking Gramm-Rudman to court. This statement is ridiculous. Every special interest in Washington was begging Congress not to pass the law. Far from challenging them, Synar gave these interests just what they wanted. America needs Gramm-Rudman because it allows Congressmen to pass the buck while saving the country big bucks. The law mandates a reduction in next year's deficit to $144 billion, shrinking to zero by 1991. Cuts like this will never happen without Gramm-Rudman. Reagan will continue to push for more defense and less social spending while Congress does the opposite. We end up with a lot more of both. Gramm-Rudman is crucial because it forces compromise. The mandatory cuts in the law are admittedly indiscriminate. However, the law is designed so that these measures will never take place, since both the President and Congress would rather guide the budget-cutting carefully. Gramm-Rudman is also critical because it builds expectations of cuts--which are necessary for interest rates to drop meaningfully.

Mr. Moses offers no alternative. He would rather place his faith in the courage of Congressmen to cut budgets. He forgets that they have paid lip-service to this ideal for a decade while doing nothing. It's time to give Congress some help. Gramm-Rudman fits the bill. President Harvard Republican Club

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