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Who says Congress doesn’t have ideas?

Radical conservatives in this country have an interesting time of it, for when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by Liberals, they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity. There are, thank Heaven, the exceptions. There are those of generous impulse and a sincere desire to encourage a responsible dissent from the Liberal orthodoxy. And there are those who recognize that when all is said and done, the market place depends for a license to operate freely on the men who issue licenses—on the politicians. They recognize, therefore, that efficient getting and spending is itself impossible except in an atmosphere that encourages efficient getting and spending.” -William F. Buckley Jr., 1955

BILL BUCKLEY also said, on launching National Review, that his magazine stood athwart of history, yelling, “Stop!” Conservatives might even find that fair comment today. But it’s not always the case. Ask a modern Republican U.S. representative who’s answered the umpteenth phone call about repealing Obamacare. Sometimes conservatives yell, “Go!”

Last week the current president of the United States held discussions with the leadership of the minority party to help push through a debt ceiling increase. So far so good. But then they started talking about getting rid of the debt ceiling altogether. Which sounds like a dream come true for big-government types in Washington. Nancy Pelosi sounded giddy by the very possibility.

Deep into the story, our Washington correspondents mentioned, offhand, that the conservative Republican Study Committee had been heard from that day, too, and the group had published an open letter about 19 policy suggestions it wanted considered if the president wants its support on raising the debt ceiling again. Neat.

It doesn’t take long to track down the Republican Study Committee, or its letter. (What did editors do before Google?) It is on balance a forward-looking letter with many perfectly reasonable suggestions, yelling “Go!” at our betters.

Of course, it’s not perfect. Besides the U.S. Constitution and the King James Bible, name anything written by a committee that is. And both those works had help from above.

The RSC’s letter, for example, includes the very unconservative but seemingly always present demand that the United States pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. If conservatism is, in part, preference for lived experience over abstract theory, then lived experience shows us that the nation faces crisis on too frequent an occasion, and has to be able to pay for the battleships or medical equipment or emergency flood repairs it needs. And when war comes, or the next Ebola scare, or another Cat-5 Irma, lived experience over abstract theory shows the government needs to respond. Why handcuff it?

Other than that, there is lot in this letter to like.

THERE’S the call to actually achieve a balanced budget, which is a laudable goal in itself, and not one that’s out of reach. Even Bill Clinton was able to do it once he had a Republican Congress. Then there is the need to reform the Flood Insurance Program, which is in all the papers today. Why should taxpayers continually have to bail out—literally and figuratively—all those home owners who keep building and rebuilding in places that flood? It’s doubtful we could move New Orleans north of Lake Pontchartrain even if we wanted to, but after hurricanes we can discourage homeowners from rebuilding in swamps.

The committee wants work requirements for welfare, Medicaid and food stamps, which Arkansas has already taken steps to implement. And to keep the ban on earmarks in the House of Representatives. Not to mention repealing Obamacare. “Go!”

Our considered editorial opinion: This letter should be considered. It has more good ideas than bad.

If conservatism is also a state of mind, and one that respects and shows reverence for the past, then the past teaches us that Washington has had an easy enough time putting the nation $20 trillion in debt. Some restraint on spending—conservative restraint—may be just what’s called for.

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