Prospects brighter for tax overhaul, success not assured (copy)

President Donald Trump walks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, right, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, as he arrives Tuesday to meet with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

If it weren’t so serious, it would have been laughable.

But there were the state Senate Republicans, with one exception, voting to give final passage to a resolution calling for a constitutional convention — what would be the first one since 1787, when our current Constitution was written — to ostensibly require Congress to pass balanced federal budgets.

The irony was delicious. Here the Republican members of the Wisconsin Senate, good Donald Trump backers virtually down to their core, passed a measure that would supposedly seek to outlaw deficit spending during the same week their GOP heroes in Congress were proudly touting a tax “reform” bill that is a mere $1.5 trillion out of whack.

You might think Wisconsin Republicans running state government these days just don’t know what they are doing. Otherwise they wouldn’t pretend the federal budget is equivalent to the budgets put together by states like Wisconsin.

Yes, most states are required to pass “balanced” budgets, but the states don’t have to finance unforeseen natural disasters, wars and other emergencies, or deal with sudden economic catastrophes like the money manipulators on Wall Street foisted on the American people only 10 years ago.

Think about it. If the feds were required to annually balance the budget, there could have been no New Deal to pull us out of the Great Depression, nor could there have been the Recovery Act passed in Barack Obama’s first year to pull the country out of the Wall Street-induced Great Recession — unless the government robbed from other programs like Social Security and Medicare.

A balanced budget requirement could spell disaster for the American economy, especially during times when it is weak and needs help to protect businesses and jobs.

The move to join 27 other states in calling for the convention was led by state Sen. Chris Kapenga, an accountant from a silk-stocking Milwaukee suburb where Republicans can do no wrong. Yet it was under their conservative champions like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush that the federal deficit soared as they irresponsibly cut taxes on the wealthy, ensuring an unbalanced budget — something that Republicans, ironically, are trying to do once again.

You might think Kapenga and his colleagues would aim their fire at their GOP colleagues in Washington, too. But no, the Donald Trump-Paul Ryan tax “reform” act gets good marks from Wisconsin Republican legislative leaders even though it promises to balloon the national debt.

But worse, the call for a constitutional convention — thanks to Wisconsin, it now needs the approval of just six more states — could open a Pandora’s box that could cause untold havoc to our Constitution. A recent mailing from the group Convention of States Action reads: “A convention of states is our only chance to pass important and long overdue measures like a balanced budget amendment, term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court, and limits on the scope and jurisdiction of the federal government.”

And the convention might even try to limit the freedoms that have irritated conservative politicians and others over the years — for instance, the First Amendment, which doesn’t seem to sit well with Donald Trump.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. He can be reached by email at dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.