The Federal Debt


The people reacted unequivocally at the next opportunity, and the 1994 congressional election was a political earthquake of the first order, one whose aftershocks will rumble through Washington far into the future. The Democratic party lost its majority in the House for the first time in forty years. The Speaker of the House lost his seat, the first time that had happened since the Civil War, and many other “old bulls” went with him. The Senate as well went Republican, along with many state governorships and legislatures.

As soon as the new Congress convened on January 3, 1995, it began to change the system, beginning with extensive reforms of procedures in the House.

It is far too soon to know how profound the revolution begun last January will prove to be. After all, those who have to change the status quo—the members of Congress—are the prime beneficiaries, at least in the short term, of that status quo. The Madison Effect ensures their reluctance to transfer some power over the budget to the President or to end the inherently corrupt system of funding presidential campaigns. But we do know that human nature cannot change; it can only be taken into account as our understanding of it deepens. The Founding Fathers, the greatest practitioners of applied political science the world has known, realized intuitively that the self-interest of politicians must be made, by law, to lie in the same direction as the national interest if the government is to work in the interests of the people for long. If, in searching for the answers to the political problems of the late twentieth century, we have some measure of the same political wisdom, all will be well.