February of 1997 may well go down in history as one of the most important months in the history of the 20th Century. Important because it is very likely that both Houses of the Congress of the United States will pass an amendment to the Constitution, which is significant unto itself; but this particular amendment could have an impact which reaches far into the future.
The amendment? One to require that all budgets of the United States government be balanced. On the face of it, balancing the budget is a laudable goal. In fact, a balanced budget with the elimination of our debt is one of the steps needed to ensure a sound, stable and growing economy for the 21st Century.
But we must be very careful, for it is critically important that the Balanced Budget Amendment the Congress passes contains strict provisions which prohibit tax increases to accomplish the stated goal.
Why? Consider this proposition. We could this year balance the budget very easily. Very easily, that is, if one does not mind paying double their current tax levy. And that is exactly what is required to balance our out-of-control spending. Can you afford that? I don't believe most of us can.
Our elected officials in the House, Senate and White House have shown absolutely no hesitancy in the past hundred years to increasing taxes for almost any reason. It is difficult to believe that these same bodies would not raise taxes under a Balanced Budget Amendment without a strict Constitutionally-enforced requirement to hold them back.
And the worst part is that without the prohibition against tax increases, the big-spenders would be able to say, in all honesty, that it was not they who are raising taxes, but the Constitution!
Our Founding Father, and former president, Thomas Jefferson once wrote that "eternal vigilance" is the price we must pay for living in a free society. I believe he was speaking not only of watching for encroachments on our civil liberties, but our economic freedom as well. It is therefore imperative that we not allow the "hype" of amending the constitution to prevent us from addressing the very real concern that balancing the budget could come with an expanding tax rate that would place the nails in our nation's economic coffin.
The other concern which must be carefully addressed is preventing the Congress from simply taking items "off budget." Already expenses like Social Security and Medicare are not stated as part of the National Debt. And it is a very easy process for the Congress to just begin moving more and more items off the budget, sidestepping a "balanced budget amendment" and causing the debt to increase. (Even without a balanced budget amendment, this practice should be abolished immediately.)
I am committed to doing everything possible to balance the budget and cut taxes. The truth of the matter is that we will only balance the budget when we address the level of spending which takes place at the federal level. The US budget is ripe with targets for cuts which would hurt no one (except, of course, those who get rich and powerful from the big government programs). If the politicians in both parties were serious about balancing the budget - without cooking the books or increasing our taxes - they could do so right now by making cuts in the unconstitutional programs they continue to fund year after year. The only way to get our fiscal house in order is for Congress to exercise its responsibility and begin making the relatively simple choices about which programs are necessary for running our constitutional government, and which simply have no business operating at the federal level.
Of course, we want this amendment to take place immediately, not in some pie-in-the-sky future year, when none of the current elected officials will likely be around to actually implement the changes.
When the roll is called for House votes on the Balanced Budget Amendment, you can expect "Paul of Texas" to vote "yes" if the measure is a responsible one: achieving the necessary goal of balancing the budget by cutting wasteful, big-government programs, not by using shady accounting techniques or by taking more hard-earned money from our pockets and our children's future.