In the spirit of helpfulness, we pass along the following suggestion from a reader.
Cynics from the press and Democrats from Capitol Hill all seem to believe that President Reagan's staged rally for a balanced budget on July 19 was little more than a symbolic attempt to divert attention from his 1983 record budget deficit. Since Reagan can't seem to control the budget, his critics tell us, he is trying to stay in front of the issue by pressing for a constitutional amendment, which will have no more effect on government spending than legislation to raise the debt ceiling.
The president has a chance--as few in Washington ever do--to prove his cynics wrong and reaffirm his sincere commitment to a balanced budget. Consistent with his overall approach to government and to international relations, Reagan should amend the balanced budget amendment to put some teeth in it--some bite, as the dentists put it. He can do this easily and prove to the world that the age of overspending, "runaway government," bloated bureaucracy and economic decline is over.
The president should proposed that violations of the balanced budget amendment be considered crimes. If congressmen, senators and the president failed to balance the budget annually, they would go directly to jail for 18 months--a criminal penalty, automatic sentencing, double time for recidivists.
And one more thing: the amendment should also be voted as a law, thereby coming into force when the president signs it, so that we would not have to wait for three-quarters of the states to approve it. After Reagan signed the bill into law, the next vote on a budget resolution that did not close the deficit would close the Congress. That would sure show the cynics that the Reagan administration means what it says.