The Line Item Veto, Roman Style

Let us start with some uncheerful axioms about the fiscal policies of the central government of the United States at the close of the 20th century. "Beggar thy grandchildren" is, de facto if not by design, the guiding principle of the United States Congress. The government's gross debt, plus the interest on the debt, plus the locus of the annual deficit, all combine to inflict seismic damage on the nation's future. What are the core conditions leading to our national ailment? First, the federal government is too aggressive in gratifying ever-expanding appetites for new programs to solve every constituent-perceived problem. Government is too timid to establish priorities among a near-infinite number of programs clamoring to spend near-infinite resources. Government also refuses to set and observe spending priorities, the necessary precondition to any fiscal solution.

Simultaneously, there exists a "grandiloquence gap"—a vast chasm between the system's bewitchery in promoting new programs and the implacable reality of our financial condition. For example, the need to care for victims of AIDS, cancer, crib death, and learning disabilities outstrips both science and the fisc. Tragically and typically, however, the program-promoting rhetoric always outpoints reality in the media's ratings-driven attention.

If you find yourself in accord with these cloudy axioms and wish to examine a...

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