Friday, March 14, 2008

What Does Spitzer Have to Do With the National Debt?

How are Eliot Spitzer and the national debt linked?

Most importantly, for me, his story got my op-ed in the LA Times bumped into next week!

Seriously, his little ... indiscretion ... shows, once again, that our elected officials are as human as the rest of us. Some of them have trouble keeping their penises in their pants, others can't keep their hands to themselves, their mouths shut, or their driving safe and sober. Still others couldn't balance a checkbook if their lives depended on it or, more importantly, balance the government's budget if the entire national economy depended on it. This is why it is so important to look for structural ways of tying politicians' hands, of building more checks and balances into what matters most, the power of the purse.

One idea I throw out in One Nation Under Debt is to make one house of Congress responsible for spending and the other for taxing and borrowing. That way, the spending house (the House of Representatives?) can't spend more than the taxing and borrowing house allows. It'll give 'em what economists call a binding budget constraint. During wars and disasters the other house (the Senate?) would provide ample resources but in fat years will have a better chance of keeping a lid on spending. Chew on that.

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