Rep. Woolsey, to get our federal fiscal house in order, we need a balanced budget amendment. This week, we’re told, the House will have the chance to vote again on a balanced budget amendment. By googling “balanced budget amendment,” one can find quite a selection of opinions that pan the idea such an amendment could be enforced and could be the answer to our federal financial irresponsibility (see, for example, this article and this one). But there are others (see this link and also this one) that methodically and rationally explain why such an amendment is perhaps our best hope. Perhaps this opinion piece by Rep. Tom Rooney makes the best pro case:
An amendment would ensure that we never face a debt crisis like we do today. It would show the American people that we’re ready to be responsible stewards of their tax dollars.
The massive borrowing by the federal government is hurting economic growth. Fearing the higher taxes, inflation and borrowing costs of a looming debt crisis, businesses are hunkering down, and job creation has stalled. A balanced budget amendment would give the private sector certainty.
Opponents ask, Can’t Congress and the president already balance the budget? Yes, but history has shown that the ability has not translated into action. For the most part, people want lower taxes, but they don’t want to lose spending programs they like. For example, few would dispute that Medicare and Social Security are on fiscally unsustainable paths, yet most begin to squirm when specific reforms are proposed. Even spending projects that you and I might find wasteful have a bloc of committed supporters.
Politicians typically have bowed to this public pressure, finding it easy to reduce taxes but difficult to cut spending. This is our political reality: Government spending is almost impossible to cut, especially when government is divided between Republicans and Democrats.
A balanced budget amendment would challenge this system head-on by forcing Congress and the president to spend no more than they take in through taxes. No more avoiding tough decisions. No more ducking responsibility and blaming the other party. And, most important, no more deficits.
Sometimes fiscal discipline cannot be obtained without an inviolate constraint on the political process. Without an amendment, Congress and the president are too prone to bow to the pleas of this interest and that. With one, at least there will be a constitutional obligation that will supersede all those clamoring interests. Of course, there will still be intense competition among those interests to get the dollars that will be available, but at least everyone will have to be on the same page: there will only be as much money to spend as is gathered in revenue. This is the way it should always have been. Ideally, we should have abided by the simple principle throughout our history just as a matter of common sense. But we did not. So, now we must take the step of forcing our politicians (and forcing us) to live within our means. If a balanced budget amendment is able to jump all the hurdles required to go into effect, we will have a solid foundation for future federal budgets. Unfortunately, we will still have to deal with the elephant in the room: the 14 TRILLION dollar national debt we have racked up. Nevertheless, better late than never: pass that balanced budget amendment!
And you, Rep. Woolsey, do yourself and your district credit and see the need for this balanced budget amendment. You won’t be in Congress if and when it takes effect, but you can at least vote for it as a sign that you realize the impossibility of continuing to recklessly spend as you and your colleagues have been doing. There is still time for you to vote for responsible financial underpinnings in Washington D.C.