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It Is Time for a New Amendment

July 12, 2011 J

Even after over 200 years, our Constitution is still a thing of wondrous beauty. The proof of the Constitution’s success is, like those truths in the Declaration of Independence, self-evident: America is the wealthiest, most powerful nation on the face of the Earth. Our Founding Fathers constructed a marvelous governing machine, complete with checks and balances, firm prescribed limits, and divergent interests offsetting each other. They realized that this government was to be administered by men, not angels, and planned accordingly. They also realized that over time everything changes, and so incorporated a means to modify the nation’s guiding document, to amend the Constitution as the need arose.

Today we face the kind of unforeseen problem for which the amendment process was intended. During the past century, the Federal Government has gradually but relentlessly grown, consuming an ever larger portion of both our economy and our lives. Much of this uncontrolled growth can be attributed to the unlimited ability of the government to borrow money. When programs handing out benefits are not limited by the ability to afford them, but can be paid for by borrowing, there no longer is any constraint on what politicians can offer “for free.”

This wanton spending haunts America like a dark rider—a force of expanding government usurpation and the inevitable control it has over America’s citizens—stalks our society with a companion, an oppressive and unsustainable debt load spawned by reliance on deficit spending.

The answer to this problem is The Balanced Budget Amendment. The writers of state constitutions across the nation had the good sense to include a requirement to allow states to spend only what they take in. It is about time the Federal Government had such a requirement as well.

An Amendment to the Constitution, House Joint Resolution 1 has been proposed to resolve this problem for good, and will be voted on in the House shortly. H.J. Res. 1 addresses our fiscal crisis by:
* • Requires a vote of three-fifths of both Houses of Congress for outlays to exceed revenues
• Caps spending at 18% of GDP, unless two-thirds of both Houses vote otherwise
• Requires a vote of two-thirds of both Houses to raise taxes
• Forbids raising the debt limit without a vote of three-fifths of both Houses
• Requires the President to propose a balanced budget to Congress

There is no persuasive argument why the Federal Government should possess the power to spend, tax and borrow with the ease of a simple majority vote. This Amendment simply makes spending, taxing and borrowing more difficult by requiring supermajority approval by both Houses of Congress.

Some have objected to past proposed balanced budget amendments on the grounds that such a measure might handcuff the nation from raising arms to defend our interests and security. H.J. Res. 1 resolves that tension by permitting a majority of the House to waive the Amendment’s requirements for spending on a military conflict.

Despite the obvious need for such a law, getting a Constitutional Amendment passed is no easy task; the difficult and time-consuming process for full enactment is that way by design. But our current fiscal debt crisis is an excellent example of why one is needed now, and in fact was needed yesterday. Passing it will require bi-partisan support across the nation. It will also require every citizen to demand that their state and federal representatives support the Balanced Budget Amendment, and, if they refuse, to work to replace them with a representative who will.

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