- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 31, 2001

Noble: The House of Representatives for approving President Bushs budget outline, including slashing the marriage penalty.

A government´s power over its citizens is directly related to its power over their resources. By voting to return a fraction of the surplus to the citizens who earned it, the largely Republican majority helped to limit the government´s power, especially because those tax cuts will help hold the line on spending.

A certain amount of government spending is always necessary if we want to drive on at least occasionally paved roads, eat mostly uninfected meat, and destroy the odd Iraqi anti-aircraft site. Yet government should not do everything, or even many things, since its incompetence tends to be measured in billions of dollars. (Take the post office as an example.)

Moreover, the political environment is at least as corrupt as anything in the private sector, and hence, government dollars are usually not directed toward the best interests of the nation, but rather toward the best interests of a given politician. Taxpayer dollars may do a wonderful job funding a "smart truck" at the National Automotive Center in Warren, Mich., but should taxpayers really finance a project that ought to be financed by the automakers themselves?

For diminishing their own power and thus adding to the freedom of their constituents, those who voted with the president´s budget are nobles of the week.

Knave: The Senate, for spending two weeks attempting to diminish the power of citizens through campaign-finance reform.

The level of debate in "the world´s greatest deliberative body" has frequently fallen below that of "Animal House" frat boys trying out to be judges in a wet T-shirt contest, and the past two weeks have proven to be no exception.

The latter contest is probably far healthier for the republic, since at least it permits free expression, which McCain-Feingold would limit. As columnists and constitutional experts (including members of the Supreme Court) have repeatedly pointed out, money spent on political advertising is equivalent to speech. Limiting it essentially limits the responses that can be given.

Since neither politicians nor interest groups ever run out of bad things to say about their opponents, limiting soft money limits their ability to reply. While greater civility in discourse is a laudable goal, entree into Etiquette 101 shouldn´t come at the point of a gun.

Nor is there too much money in politics. As Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell pointed out last week on CNN´s "Late Edition,""We are spending as much on politics as we did on potato chips last year."

Besides, while many voters have cried out for tax relief, few have chosen campaign-finance less than 1 percent of respondents to a January Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll called campaign-finance their first priority.

For freely spending their own time to limit the speech of citizens, the Senate is the knave of the week.


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