BY ERNEST F. HOLLINGS
When I was first elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1948, Rule 34 (Rule 5.13 today) of the House required that any appropriation bill must have a certificate from the controller that the appropriation was within the revenues or it was referred back to the Ways and Means Committee.
I was taught that a conservative was one that believed government programs were paid for at adoption. We didn’t question whether the government was too big or too small. We didn’t play the economists’ game of “growth.” We operated on a pay-as-you-go basis and made sure that the budget was balanced from year to year.
Today, Congress never operates on a pay as you go basis. Congress assumes the economy needs growth, resulting in plans for a later Congress to pay that never pays.
In 1951, we adopted my 3 percent sales tax bill to pay for the public schools. As governor, in 1959 I increased taxes to balance the budget, giving South Carolina its first AAA credit rating — first in the South. In 1985, I co-sponsored Gramm-Rudman-Hollings to cut spending.
In 1993, I helped round up the votes to cut spending $250 billion and increase taxes $250 billion — giving President George W. Bush a balanced budget in 2001.
But President Bush cut taxes, waged wars, added prescription drugs to Medicare, stimulated and bailed out — all without paying for them.
I voted against President Bush’s tax cuts because they caused deficits — now estimated to be a loss of $1.7 trillion in revenues. I proposed to pay for the Iraq War, but the White House killed it. I was for adding prescription drugs to Medicare but voted against it because it cost $500 million with no provision to pay.
Congressmen John Boehner and Eric Cantor voted for tax cuts, wars, prescription drugs and supported President Bush’s increase in the national debt of $5 trillion in eight years. When President Barack Obama took office, Boehner and Cantor didn’t propose $5 trillion in spending cuts to pay for the debt Bush incurred. Running trillion-dollar deficits each year, they don’t propose $1 trillion in spending cuts. They only propose cutting Medicare and Social Security — programs in surplus.
In 1983, we increased the age for Social Security recipients and increased Social Security taxes when it was necessary. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Congress has at least 10 years to pay for Medicare and 20 years to pay for Social Security.
The problem is not to cause deficits but to cut deficits. The task is to pay for programs at their adoption. Yet Boehner and Cantor call themselves conservatives.
The United States paid for all its wars, depressions, recessions and emergencies and taking two hundred years to reach one trillion dollars of national debt in 1981.
Now we’ve increased the national debt to more than $16 trillion and are adding $1 trillion to it each year.
Instead of paying for the federal government, Congressmen Boehner and Cantor play the political games that “the government is too big,” “the economy needs growth” and offer “10-year plans for a later Congress to pay.”
Anything to keep their pledge to Grover Norquist to not increase taxes, which amounts to a pledge to not pay for government.
The games of deficit spending have increased the debt $12 trillion with interest costs of $455 billion — $455 billion for nothing.
Congressmen Boehner and Cantor are good guys, and I don’t want to call them frauds but they are certainly not conservative.
Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings, a Democrat, served as governor of South Carolina from 1959-63 and in the U.S. Senate from 1966-2005.