Time for a Balanced Budget Amendment

Thursday, 14 Feb 2013 10:44 AM

By Bradley Blakeman

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Forty-nine states have it and our federal government needs it — a balanced budget amendment.
 
It is clear, that without a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the federal government will remain incompetent when it comes to producing an annual budget.
 
And while the government is technically capable of producing an annual budget without such an amendment, there are no guarantees that the document will be balanced — when expenditures do not exceed revenues.
 
Now is the time to actively fight for a constitutional requirement that our federal government produce a balanced budget annually. While it may take some time to win support for an amendment to the Constitution, it is clear that our very survival as a nation is dependent upon a country that is economically sound and responsible.
 
We must break free from crisis management and move into a pattern of fiscal responsibility, discipline, and planning. If both Republicans and Democrats knew that they had a duty as a matter of law to produce a budget that was in balance — without tricks or gimmickry — it would make all of our lives a whole lot more predictable and send a clear message to the markets and the world that America is finally ready to act responsibly.
 
It is time to pay as we go and not let our wants trump our needs. Every day Americans make tough choices around their kitchen tables. Americans must decide — “what do I need?” And, “what can I afford.” Government must do the same. We must break out of the moment and realize that government best perpetuates a just and fair society by providing for the moment and planning for the future.
 
Burdening future generations with our current obligations is unethical and immoral.
 
Critics of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution argue that it handcuffs Congress to respond or head off national emergencies like, war, and recession. Adding language to the amendment, that would allow for relief from the requirements of the amendment in times of “national emergency” or “wars declared by an Act of Congress” — provided that two-thirds of both houses of Congress agree — can alleviate this concern.
 
The challenge for drafters of the amendment will be to craft language that is concise, clear, and understandable. It must set forth a budgetary formula that cannot be manipulated, misconstrued or otherwise be subject to interpretation.
 
An amendment to the Constitution can be accomplished in one of two ways:
  1. Congress itself can propose an amendment by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress;
  1. The States can propose it by two-thirds of states calling upon Congress to convene a constitutional convention.
 Regardless of how an amendment is proposed it still must be ratified by no less than three-fourths of the states — and they would have seven years to do it.
 
The best and most expeditious way to accomplish an amendment to the Constitution is to have the legislative branch itself ask for it.
 
Our national debt of over $16 trillion is unsustainable.
 
For the past four years we have been spending $1 trillion more than we take in. Entitlements like Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid are on the road to insolvency without restructuring. The servicing of our debt is having a major negative impact on budgeting. 
 
Our national credit rating has been downgraded and we have a national unemployment rate whereby 15 million Americans are either out of work or have stopped looking. We cannot continue on a path of economic incompetence.
 
Either Congress will acknowledge the need for a balanced budget amendment or the states need to step up and force it upon them.
 
A balanced budget amendment would remove a lot of the bitter partisanship that currently exists in Washington, D.C. It would force all parties to act and there will be no more “kicking the can down the road” or legislative-created shenanigans such as the fiscal cliff or sequestration.
 
Elections have consequences and not doing that which you are elected to do once you are elected should have consequences too. The most important job for the legislative and executive branches is to ensure that America is fiscally sound and secure. It is clear that left to their own devices, they are incapable of doing that today.
 
America is facing the clear and present danger of insolvency.
 
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman — Click Here Now.
 



 
 
 

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