Congress Can't Restrain Itself
November 28, 2011
A strong balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution is the only practical solution to this chronic problem. Survey after survey shows that American voters think Congress should be required to balance the federal budget just as they must balance theirs.
President Obama opposes a balanced-budget amendment, and he comes by that opposition honestly. In his first three years in office, he hasn't even conceived a plan to balance a budget or achieve fiscal responsibility. And he has overseen massive government growth, increased domestic spending, presided over the three largest annual deficits in American history, and added more than $4 trillion to the nation's debt. Are we better off now than we were $4 trillion ago? Obama no doubt hopes his early pledge to halve the deficit by the end of his first term will be forgotten as that term nears its end.
If the supercommittee's failure to present a deficit-reduction plan triggers large automatic budget cuts, those cuts can still be undone by a new Congress. If Republicans attain majorities in both the House and Senate next fall, the defense portion of the automatic cuts would likely be at least partly restored.
Our entitlement programs, meanwhile, have $59 trillion or more in unfunded liabilities. And congressional Democrats maintain that nothing should be done to reform them.
Yet the debt keeps growing like a snowball rolling down a steep hill. Why isn't anyone doing anything to stop it?
We now stand at a debt-to-gross-domestic-product ratio of about 1-to-1, approaching dangerous European levels of overborrowing. When your debt reaches a level you can't service, you go bankrupt. And we are headed in that direction.
Greece is being bailed out. Italy may be next. But no one is big enough to bail out the United States.
So how do we work our way back to solvency?
First, do no harm: Balancing the budget would not erase the debt, but it would keep the snowball from getting bigger.
Next, follow the example of the 49 states that have some type of balanced-budget requirement. Do Democrats from those states oppose their balanced-budget requirements?
Republicans can frame the 2012 campaign in terms of tough but realistic solutions to the debt and jobs crises. Democrats are likely to pretend that more government spending is all we need to restore the economy - that we don't really need to consider more painful measures - while stoking fears that Republicans will gut Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
In a typical year, the latter strategy might prevail. But a majority of Americans now sense that the snowball is gaining speed, growing every day, and headed for their neighborhood. And it started on Capitol Hill.
Copyright 2011 Colin Hanna, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Colin A. Hanna is President of Let Freedom Ring USA, Inc., a non-profit public policy organization committed to promoting Constitutional government, free enterprise and traditional values.
This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.
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