From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson to Ben Franklin, balancing the budget united America's founders. Nearly 200 years later, in 1982, President Reagan declared his support for a balanced budget amendment, stating "only a constitutional amendment will do the job. We've tried the carrot, and it failed. With the stick of a balanced budget amendment, we can stop government's squandering, overtaxing ways, and save our economy." Thirteen years later, in 1995, Congress was one vote shy of passing a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget.
Nearly 30 years after President Reagan's declaration and 16 years after Congress' failed vote, government continues to recklessly borrow, spend, and overtax. Our national debt is nearly $14.3 trillion -- higher than any time in American history -- and growing. Of every dollar the government spends we borrow 40 cents and send the bill to future generations, which is why every child born today owes $46,000 to our creditors. America is on the verge of drowning in red ink.
Washington's inability to control spending on its own makes it clear the only effective way to do so is through an amendment to the Constitution. Adoption of a balanced budget amendment would help ensure spending restraints are set in stone, and provide certainty to help create a better environment for job creation and economic growth across the country. Families, businesses, local governments, and 49 state governments, including Nebraska, are forced to balance their budgets. The federal government should be no different.
Congress has tried spending pledges in the past, but once these pledges fade from the headlines the spending binge continues full steam ahead often guised as "emergency spending." Families across Nebraska know "emergency spending" is a luxury not afforded in the real world. If your credit cards are maxed out, spending more money is not an option.
A constitutional mandate would legally bind both the president and Congress to produce annual budgets which spend no more than the government receives in revenues. It would end the explosive annual deficits which have ballooned to record levels. Last year alone, our annual deficit was $1.4 trillion, plus the billions in interest being paid on the $800 billion borrowed for the failed "stimulus" bill the year before. These figures are unconscionable, and only the legal force of a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget will guarantee a change in our fiscal course.
For too long, increases in government spending have been seen as the means to fix our country's woes. The reality is we can no longer afford the tired playbook of failed Washington policies. Out-of-control government spending is the problem, and cutting spending must be the solution. Getting our fiscal house in order is not only achievable, it is imperative as Washington needs to get serious about changing the way it spends the American people's money. Implementing a balanced budget amendment will help restore our economy and save the American dream for the next generation.
For more information about spending issues, the latest developments in Congress, or to sign up for my e-mail newsletter, please visit my website at www.adriansmith.house.gov.