'Practical politics consists in ignoring facts," Henry Adams once stated.
And the Big Fact being ignored today by the oh-so-practical presidential candidates is that the nation's Big Surplus has sticky fingers all over it.
In its closing days before the election, the current Congress is passing spending bills that will eliminate some two-thirds of the projected 10-year surplus. Instead of being over $2 trillion, the surplus may end up being about $700 billion, estimates the nonpartisan Concord Coalition. (See story on page 1.)
So guess what? Al Gore and George W. Bush can't very well debate how to use the projected surplus if it's sinking into the pork barrels of congressmen ready to rush home waving the bacon of federal dollars to be spent on local projects.
Any promises by Mr. Gore or Mr. Bush to cut taxes, pay down the debt, or bolster Social Security will just ring hollow. It's time for them to drop that debate and run against Congress, even if incumbent candidates in their political parties will lose their seats under the heat of criticism.
Rampant spending is just the half of it. Many bills are never debated in a committee or on the floor. Few voices are raised as Congress engages in this stealth exercise of I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine.
Budget discipline has broken down - in both parties - in this era of budget surpluses. Gone are are the spending caps worked out in 1997 between Democrats and Republicans.
Much of this election is all about how to spend the surplus.
Can't Congress turn off its spigot until the voters speak?
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society