Over the next several days, I am going to be bringing you a series of ten proposals derived from our national experience, and from a long list of suggestions from my readers.  Each day, I intend to bring you at least one in this list of ten items, so that you can consider their merits and flaws.  Since one of the items is now on the verge of being proposed in the House of Representatives later this week, I have decided that for several important reasons, we should begin there.  Our federal spending has grown out of all control, and Congress is looking for ways to avoid the pain.  The solutions Congress is now considering actually threaten the future of the country.

The first of ten reforms is a Balanced Budget Amendment.  That amendment must have as its primary purposes the following simple ends:

  1. Maintain the fiscal and financial stability of the United States by limiting the accrual of new public debt
  2. Restrain the growth of Federal spending as a proportion of the total economy of the United States
  3. Force Congress to live within a budget by restricting their ability to easily raise taxes
  4. Pay down the existing public debt over the longer run

These are the obvious purposes for a Balanced Budget Amendment, and any proposed amendment that does not meet these criteria is not a serious attempt at reform, and may even sew the seeds of revolution.

To maintain the fiscal and financial stability of the United States is critical in limiting the budgetary impact of existing debt, and to fulfilling our various spending priorities.  It is also important in the chore of maintaining the value of our currency.  Each additional dollar printed or digitized into circulation diminishes the value of every previous dollar.  Each time the federal government borrows additional funds, more money is put into circulation by the Federal Reserve.  To balance the budget would stop our national bleeding, and also limit the damage to the value of our money.

A serious proposal for a Balanced Budget Amendment must include a limit on how much of the economy the Federal Government can consume.  I think that proportion should be tagged at fifteen percent, but others would be satisfied if we could peg it to eighteen or twenty percent.  I would be willing to accept the twenty percent number if it was written specifically to include money spent in the private sector in order to comply with federal regulations, laws, and mandates.  This limitation would have the effect of making Congress deal with unfunded mandates and regulatory costs of the laws they impose, and the executive branch enforces.

In tandem with a limitation on Congressional authority to increase revenues, this would have the combined effect of putting the pinch on Congress and compelling them to control federal expenditures.  Any limitation to increase taxes should include a bare minimum of a two-thirds vote by both houses of Congress, although I would prefer three-fourths.

The last thing a Balanced Budget Amendment must do is set aside some proportion of the budget for the purpose of reducing the principle owed on the public debt.  In short, we should be buying down debt by constitutional mandate, a little at a time, but as the debt is paid down, any savings derived from reduced interest payments over the longer run should be plowed into reducing the debt at a greater rate.  Think of it like making the monthly minimum payment on your credit card, but rather than always making that minimum payment, instead continuing to pay that same initial payment amount.  Over time, the amount going to pay down principle increases while the amount spent in interest continues downward, ultimately at an accelerated pace.

These should be the bare essentials to be considered in the drafting and adoption of a Balanced Budget Amendment.  As of this writing, the House Republican leadership is working on a form of a Balanced Budget Amendment that contains no such restrictions, and might well lead to skyrocketing taxes.  In this sense, the version of the Amendment now being advanced by the Republican leadership may equate to a national suicide pact.  It may also be merely a stunt, but in any case, it is a dangerous proposal because it puts no restrictions on Congress.

If there’s one thing experience has taught us, it is that Congress is frequently irresponsible when it has the unlimited, unrestricted ability to spend the public treasure.  A serious Balanced Budget Amendment is the first step among several that will begin the lengthy process of regaining control over the United States by its people.  Don’t settle for half measures and recipes for disaster.  While the Republican leadership is working to shaft us again, we must let them know that their tepid proposals simply will not suffice, and will not be accepted.  This is our country.  It’s time to let them know it.

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