Why a Balanced Budget Amendment is Necessary to Save Our Nation

Statement

By:  Raúl Labrador
Date: July 21, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

As a Congressman, I witness a seemingly endless stream of special interest groups seeking funding for their pet programs and I listen to testimony from countless bureaucrats whose only goal seems to be seeking a larger budget. Spending by the federal government is absolutely out of control, and it has been for a long time. I have arrived at the same conclusion that the majority of Americans have: the time for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is now.

Congress and the federal bureaucracy cannot be trusted to show fiscal restraint on their own and say no to reckless spending of taxpayer dollars. A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution would legally force the federal government to spend no more than the amount of money that it brings in.

Forty-nine states abide by a balanced budget requirement -- including Idaho- and many families balance their checkbooks regularly. As individuals, we understand that we have a limited ability to borrow and spend money, it's time the federal government followed suit. While any bills this Congress passes which cut spending can be changed by this or future Congresses, a constitutional amendment is permanent.

Our country currently owes $14.3 trillion in debt and borrows roughly 40 cents of every dollar we spend. Admiral Mike Mullen--the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff--has called our debt "the single greatest threat to national security."

Our government simply cannot control itself when it comes to spending. Members of both political parties have a history of not being able to say no. Since President Obama took office in January of 2009, the national debt has increased by $3.7 trillion. For reference, it took the United States from its founding in 1776 to 1992 to accumulate the same amount of debt that this administration has accumulated in only two and a half years. And previous Congresses and Presidents have not been much better. Under President George W. Bush spending increased by nearly 33% - adding nearly $5 trillion in debt.

Raising taxes is not the solution -particularly at a time with such high unemployment. Higher taxes on anyone would simply damage the economy more and hurt individuals and employers and wouldn't balance the budget at all. In order to balance the budget, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that tax rates would have to more than double and some estimate that a 60-percent across-the-board tax increase would be necessary. I do not believe many families or business could endure a 60-percent increase. Even if you taxed the top 10-percent of income earners at 100-percent, you could not come close to balancing the budget. Spending is the problem.

This past November, voters made it clear that they were tired of business as usual in Washington and voted for a change in direction. They elected folks like me who ran on a mantle of reform and they expect us to fulfill those promises. They wanted their voices to be heard. I came here to change the way Washington works and I won't back down from that challenge.

I believe failing to raise the debt ceiling carries consequences, but I believe that failing to permanently change the structure of the way the government budgets and spends taxpayer money carries much more dire consequences. Credit rating agency Moody's has stated that even if the debt ceiling is raised, it could lower the U.S. credit rating if we do not find a way to improve our overall debt situation.

A balanced budget amendment is neither a gimmick nor a new concept. Congress nearly passed one in the 1990s with then-Senator Joe Biden supporting it as well as Democrat Whip Steny Hoyer. In 1982 Ronald Reagan also called for one, "most Americans understand the need for a balanced budget, and most Americans have seen how difficult it is for the Congress to withstand the pressures for more spending. This amendment will force government to stay within the limit of its revenues. Government will have to do what each of us does with our own family budgets -- spend no more than we can afford."

I understand there are concerns with both the procedural hurdles to passing a balanced budget amendment and the impact of such a move on our fiscal outlook, but I wholeheartedly reject the notion of the passage of a balanced budget amendment as a gimmick. In fact, it may be the only way to save our Country from fiscal ruin.