March 31, 2011 | WebMemo on Budget and Spending
Two key principles should govern congressional consideration of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that requires the federal government to balance its budget:
Federal spending is out of control—both obligations for the future and spending right now.
Congress must get spending under control in the long term. America cannot raise taxes to continue overspending, because tax hikes shrink our economy and grow our government. America cannot borrow more to continue overspending, because borrowing puts an enormous financial burden on the American children of tomorrow. A BBA will help address this long-term problem because, after the multi-year process for securing ratification of the BBA by three-quarters of the states, the BBA will keep federal spending under control in subsequent years.
Congress also must get spending under control in the short term. Federal overspending is not simply about the future, but also about the present. Under the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Submission, measured by the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government will spend $1.2 trillion more than it will take in, a gargantuan burden of additional debt forced on future generations to pay current bills.
Thus, America needs both a Balanced Budget Amendment for the long term and deep cuts in federal spending starting right now, without waiting for a BBA to take effect. As Congress considers budget resolutions, appropriations bills, appropriations continuing resolutions, and debt limit bills, Congress should take every opportunity now to cut federal spending, including for the biggest overspending problem: the ever-growing entitlement programs.
Congress should recognize that the best way to encourage state legislatures to ratify a BBA is to demonstrate, through consistent congressional cuts in spending, that the American people have the will to accept spending cuts to balance the budget.
A successful BBA will:
America is in a fiscal crisis. Our government spends too much. Overspending must stop immediately. Overspending will stop only if Congress cuts spending now, including with respect to the ever-expanding entitlement programs. For the future, Congress and three-quarters of state legislatures can adopt and ratify a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to anchor the American willingness to live within a balanced budget.
David S. Addington is Vice President for Domestic and Economic Policy, and J. D. Foster, Ph.D., is Norman B. Ture Senior Fellow in the Economics of Fiscal Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.