There is a direct connection between that article on page one last week -- "GSA Stores Furniture, Buys More" -- and another article inside the paper about a constitutional amendment aimed at pushing the government into a balanced budget. It is that extravagant and unnecessary expenditures by the government are breedilng extravagant and unwise proposals to limit the government's power to spend money.
That was the message of Proposition 13 and its progeny, and you would think that by think that by this time it would be well understood. But the message seems not to have penetrated the skulls of some politicians and public officials.
GSA, to be fair about it, has been trying to stop or slow down the buying of new furniture by government agencies because there is so much already sitting around in warehouses. But there seems to be little inclination in those agencies to make do with what is available and to save, rather than spend, money. Even on Capitol Hill, where government extravagance is a favorite topic for flowing rhetoric, it is far easier to spend than to conserve. The public works bill, for example, is loaded once again this year with projects that are not essential but do let members of Congress take home the bacon.
Viewed in that light, the amendment approved by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee is a legislator's way of saying to his constituents that he wants them to control his spending instincts and those of other public officials because he can't control those instincts himself. Like all the other proposals to limit government in one way or another, this amendment has no other logic to support it. Such proposals, instead of being efforts to assert voter control over government policies, as their supporters contend they are, are actually proclamations that representative government isn't working.
Sooner or later, these misguided and inappropriate proposals are going to start making their way into law in places other than California and Prince George's County unless government, federal as well as state, begins to get better control of itself. If that happens, more than just the furniture in those warehouses will disappear. Spending limits aimed at eliminating the extravagances of government will inevitably cut into the substance of the programs from which those extravagances have grown.