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Peas in pod

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Rick Perry may be unable to recite his own platform, but evidently he's clever enough to infiltrate an Occupy Little Rock encampment, which means he's more dangerous than we thought. (We were naive, perhaps. We remember now that he's executed 234 people. That's about as dangerous as even Republicans could want.)

Someone identified as an OLR spokesman told a public gathering last week that one of the group's petitions sought a limit on congressional service and pay, so as to "put Congress back on the level with the people they serve." This is what Perry wants too. Perhaps it was he there at the Clinton library, the famous hair covered up by a hoodie.

Don't let the masses select their own leaders when there are rich oilmen willing to pick for them, Perry says. Power from the people! And limit congressmen's pay so they'll be even more dependent on subsidies from the one percenters, unless they're members of the one percent themselves. The people make mistakes — Perry has been elected governor of Texas three times — but the opportunity to make mistakes is a necessary part of the democratic process. Shun those who would remove it, whether candidates or protestors.

Among Ronald Reagan's many errors was his insistence that "There are easy answers!" when in fact, the answers to governing a country of American immensity and complexity are usually hard to find. Limiting terms of all congressmen is not an answer. Some of them deserve to be removed and some don't, and it's the voters' duty to decide. There will be differences of opinion.

A constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget is not an answer either. Fortunately it failed in the House of Representatives last week. Unfortunately, all four Arkansas congressmen voted for it. There's some appeal to a constitutional amendment that would remove an entire congressional delegation when its quality of service falls beneath an acceptable level, as Arkansas's has, but it's not practical. The way to rid Arkansas of Griffins and Womacks and Crawfords and Rosses is through conscientious use of the ballot, as the founding fathers intended.

A balanced budget is not always needed. Sometimes, like now, balancing the budget is not nearly so important as putting people to work, food on their tables, roofs over their heads. Franklin Roosevelt understood this. Reagan, who professed to admire Roosevelt, did not. The current limitation on presidential terms, adopted at Republicans' insistence after the people elected Roosevelt president four times, was another easy answer that didn't work. To replace a president, you find a better one. (The Republican Party, be warned, is not a good place to look.) On those occasions when a balanced budget is needed, the way to achieve it is through congressional deliberation and compromise. We have a republic. We should try to keep it.

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