By not passing the balanced-budget amendment, Congress has shown that it can't muster the mettle needed to get its fiscal house in order. Your editorial, "Why the Amendment Lost" (March 3), misses the point. There really isn't a pile of money waiting for retired people to draw on. Every Administration uses the so-called "surplus" from the Social Security trust fund, replacing the funds with IOUs to make their budget deficits look smaller. If the balanced-budget amendment had passed without Social Security attached, the name Social Security would be assigned to every spending bill because of its exemption.
What it comes down to, the liberal side of the aisle talk a good game at election time, but fail to deliver when the check comes due.
* Discussions on the federal budget and Social Security remind me of the song, "I'm My Own Grandpa." As your March 2 article correctly points out, any Social Security surplus is invested in Treasury notes. What you fail to make clear is that for every lender (Social Security or us), there needs to be a borrower (us). Fortunately, we have a huge residual debt where the Social Security trust fund can invest its surplus!
But if that debt did not exist and if the operating budget were balanced, what would we do with any surplus? Invest in Ford or Wal-Mart, or German bonds? I don't think so! That surplus would earn no interest and essentially take money out of circulation, not a very smart move for a growing economy. So trust fund or not, Social Security is part of the operating budget, like it or not.
* Now that we have determined that there were enough votes in the House of Representatives and nearly enough in the Senate to pass the balanced-budget amendment, it has become obvious that we don't need the balanced-budget amendment after all. All we need is for all of those representatives and senators that voted for the amendment to show enough political courage and pass a balanced budget next year. Since there are more than enough votes, this should be a very easy task. If you can vote for a balanced-budget amendment, why can't you vote for a balanced budget?
KIM J. McLACHLAN
* The article by William Schneider, "The Politicization of the Constitution" (Opinion, Feb. 26), offered nothing to the debate. The fact is that the Constitution has not been and is not immune to politicization. Support for the balanced-budget amendment comes from Americans of both parties, including this liberal Democrat, who have known for years that our government is incapable of curbing its own spending habits. Before pointing the finger at the Republicans for attempting to further their own political agenda, it is important to note that the huge deficit we have been halfheartedly attempting to reduce was built up during the Democratic rule of Congress. There is plenty of blame to go around.
Americans have been duped into believing that this country is broke. The fact is, if our elected representatives had exercised fiscal restraint and responsibility for just the last 10 years, there would be no discussion of a balanced-budget amendment. As a student in grade school in Los Angeles, I was taught that the U.S. Constitution, perhaps the greatest document in civilized history, is not perfect. Times have changed and so, on rare occasions, must the Constitution.
STEVEN L. SMITH