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Pro: A balanced-budget amendment is long overdue

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Chris Chocola
July 9, 2011
EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, Should Congress pass a balanced-budget amendment?

Enough with the backroom deals that result in higher taxes! Enough with spending “cuts” that are spread out over 10 years or longer and forgotten almost instantly! And enough with phony federal “budgets” that are never in balance and are drowning America in red ink! It’s time for Congress to come together to pass a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.


We face a debt crisis of massive proportions precisely because the budget process in Washington is as fundamentally sound as the Titanic, post-iceberg. As I write this, the national debt is $14.4 trillion and rising. That’s $46,334 per citizen. That’s simply too much.


There are things we can do in the short-, middle- and long-term to attack this problem.


Congress can make immediate spending cuts in the short term to cut the deficit in half. Congress can pass enforceable spending caps to keep spending under control. But these are nothing without fundamental reform.


The final piece, a balanced-budget amendment, would be a game changer for the federal budget process. Conservative leaders are calling this plan “Cut, Cap, and Balance,” and are sponsoring a pledge at CutCapBalancePledge.com to force Congress to act.


The most important piece, the balanced-budget amendment, should be a no-brainer. Forty-nine of the 50 states are required to balance their budgets. Every family has to balance their budget. There is simply no argument against a balanced-budget amendment unless you are interested in spending more money and going deeper into debt—precisely where we find ourselves right now.


The arguments that opponents on both sides of the aisle make are tenuous at best and at worst belied by history and fact. Some worry about political fallout from voting for a balanced budget. Read that sentence again.


Some members of Congress actually worry that they might lose their jobs by voting for a balanced budget. For some of our representatives in Congress, the thought that not spending more than you take in might be unpopular politically often meanders through their minds.


All public polling points to the contrary. A Mason-Dixon poll in May, for example, put the support of a balanced-budget amendment at 65 percent and only 25 percent opposed. Eighty-one percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents support a balanced-budget amendment. Even a plurality of Democrats, 45 percent, support it.


Some opponents of the balanced-budget amendment think Congress should not be ceding its own spending authority. The fact that Congress has to decide on whether to pay off the Visa with the Mastercard, yet again, should tell you all you need to know.


The federal government has produced deficit after deficit. How we got here is the fault of Republicans and Democrats. It won’t get fixed by allowing Congress to operate under the same set of rules. Going forward, we must handcuff Congress with the Constitution so we can stop the endless cycle of spending, debt and taxes.


My organization, the Club for Growth, supports a balanced-budget amendment that includes a spending limitation and a super-majority for raising taxes, in addition to balancing revenues and expenses, in exchange for raising the debt ceiling because such a balanced-budget amendment is a permanent change to how Congress spends your money.


If Republicans lost control of the House—or if enough conservatives lose re-election—then Democrats along with liberal Republicans could simply raise the debt ceiling the next time it came up without a balanced-budget amendment, and gains made by spending cuts would be lost. With a balanced-budget amendment, it would be very difficult for a future Congress to raise spending, increase the debt ceiling, or raise taxes.


If President Obama wants to raise the debt ceiling, then Cut, Cap, and Balance is what we should demand in exchange. All three are nothing without the Balance part, and doing nothing is no option at all.


Chris Chocola, a former Republican congressman from Indiana, is president of the Club for Growth (www.clubforgrowth.org). Readers may write to him at Club for Growth, 2001 L Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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