Email #92, Subject: “Balance the Budget”?

When I visited your office in DC, I noticed a faded pillow on your sofa. Your communications director Beth Breeding told me you receive summaries of constituent letters by email and read them at your desk, so the pillow is probably sitting behind you right now. You know the words printed on it, but I would appreciate if you would turn around and read them again now.

The pillow says, “Balance the Budget.”

You’ve been arguing for a balanced budget amendment for years. It’s probably the signature issue of your political career. Just last week you wrote on your website column:

“Congress must get our fiscal house in order. The federal debt is nearly $20 trillion. That’s over $61,000 per person! For years, the government’s mantra has been “borrow, spend, rinse, and repeat.” One good first step is to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment, which I have introduced in the House since 2007. The current path is unsustainable, and we must end runaway government spending.”

Which is why I’m so surprised by your adamant support of a President who dismisses it. President Trump told Fox News last month:

“A balanced budget is fine. But sometimes you have to fuel the well in order to really get the economy going. I want a balanced budget eventually. But I want to have a strong military.”

The words “fine” and “eventually” are not endorsements. They’re rejections. He intends to disregard budget constraints and deepen the national deficit, behavior you have consistently opposed. Presidents Clinton and Obama argued similarly that the economy needs government spending to fuel it. I think Clinton preferred the verbs “invest” and “grow.” But you voted against his economy-fueling bills in the 90s, and you also voted against Obama’s economy-fueling bills during his two terms too.

President Trump claims he has inherited an economic “mess”, but the U.S. GDP growth rate was at a two-year high when Obama left office and unemployment back to where it was before President Bush’s Great Recession. Since the case for an economy-fueling spending increase is weaker now, will you remain true to your principles and oppose President Trump’s $1 trillion transportation infrastructure bill? The President also wants to increase military spending by another $54 million, pushing the budget even further out of balance. Will you oppose that too, or do you only hold onto your pillow when there’s a Democrat in the White House?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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