Same Old Idea: Thomas Jefferson Pushed Balanced Budget, Too

Tuesday, 02 Aug 2011 02:40 PM

By Samuel Doniger

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The battle over adding a balanced-budget amendment may have made headlines in recent weeks, but the debate over the issue is nearly as old as the United States, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

thomas jefferson, balanced budget, amendmentThomas Jefferson proposed such an amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1798 to rein in spending of the nation’s second president, John Adams, and prohibit the federal government from spending beyond its means.

“I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution,” Jefferson wrote in a letter to Virginian Sen. John Taylor. “I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government; I mean an additional article taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing.”

Jefferson believed that expenditures should not exceed revenues even in times of war, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Balanced-budget amendments have reached the status of legislative action, the Christian Science Monitor quotes the Congressional Research Service as tallying. Such measures have made it to floor votes in the Senate five times and, in the House, four times. The Senate passed a version in 1982, but it failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority in the House, while the House passed a version in 1995, but it failed in the Senate, the research service says.

Last year alone, the U.S. government spent $1.4 trillion more than it took in through revenues.


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