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Lee’s book: Balanced budget amendment key to freedom
BY THOMAS BURR
Washington - Days before the House and Senate are likely to vote on a proposed balanced-budget amendment, freshman Sen. Mike Lee has released a new book focused largely on the need for such a change to the U.S. Constitution.
Lee, R-Utah, argues in his first book, The Freedom Agenda: Why a Balanced Budget Amendment Is Necessary to Restore Constitutional Government, for scaling back the federal government and forcing it to live within its means.
“To the extent we fail,” Lee says, “we will leave to our children and grandchildren a future clouded by debt, economic stagnation and an increasingly intrusive and oppressive government.”
He bolsters his case for a balanced-budget amendment by explaining his skepticism of government in general.
“The purpose of government is to constrain human behavior through coercion,” Lee writes in his introduction. “Therefore, when government acts, it does so at the expense of individual liberty.”
Lee points out that not all government action is bad, noting the need to protect life, liberty and property. But he argues against several federal programs, separating out entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in a special category of spending that he says is difficult to justify under the Constitution.
“The fact that we, as a nation, have become dependent on those programs,” Lee writes, “is hardly a reason to keep them forever.”
Lee says getting the government out of the business of providing such programs would allow churches, charities, neighborhood organizations and families to pick up the slack.
“The combined efforts and resources of all these groups,” he says, “could form a far more effective societal safety net than bureaucratic government programs ever could.”
Lee’s book, which clocks in at 220 pages, includes about 100 pages of the senator’s own writing. Other pages contain the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and a Supreme Court decision written by Lee’s friend, Justice Clarence Thomas.
The book has found great support among conservative luminaries. Billionaire Steve Forbes says Lee’s book “would make our Founders proud.”
Conservative radio and television host Glenn Beck lauds Lee’s argument against big government.
“There’s no better advocate for this common-sense solution than Senator Lee,” Beck opines on the book’s cover, “and there’s no better book to explain how to make it a reality.”
But David Gans, human and civil rights director for the Constitutional Accountability Center, and David McNamee, and intern with the center, warned that Lee’s proposal would prevent Congress from carrying out its constitutional responsibility and be an “enormous constitutional step backwards.”
“America has faced economic crises before and never found it necessary to shred the Constitution to overcome them,” the pair wrote on the center’s website. “With friends like Mike Lee, the Constitution needs no enemies.”
Lee’s book notes that the U.S. House approved a balanced-budget amendment in 1997 and the Senate came within one vote of passage, though he doesn’t offer any credit to Utah’s senior senator, Orrin Hatch, who sponsored the bill. Hatch gets no mention in Lee’s book.
The two are now lead sponsors of a Senate bill to enact a constitutional amendment to balance the budget and hold government expenses to a percentage of the nation’s gross economic output. Lee is also the lead sponsor of a Senate bill calling for cutting spending, capping government expenses and passing a balanced-budget amendment — legislation seen as likely to fail during a Senate vote this week.
President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats oppose such legislation, labeling it is unnecessarily restrictive. Obama said he would veto it if it came to his desk.
Lee has not disclosed any financial details from his book deal with conservative publisher Regnery Publishing Inc. and won’t have to make any royalties public until next spring.