By Rep. Pat Meehan, Times Guest Columnist
Every day families in southeastern Pennsylvania make tough decisions in order to live within their means. Many are forced to cancel their family vacations, put off a car repair, or cut out purchases they can no longer afford. When it comes to our country's bank account, however, both parties in Washington have not been practicing these same responsible habits.
Our country's debt has been growing at a dangerously rapid pace. We cannot continue on this path of massive borrowing and runaway spending. The United States' rate of spending has held steady under 19 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since World War II. Yet over the last two and half years, the rate of spending has increased to an average of 24.4 percent of GDP. We need to get serious about changing the way Washington works, and look toward long-term solutions to ensure we will not face a crisis like this again.
The only way to ensure that Congress and the President will not allow the U.S. to be driven further into debt is to pass an amendment to the Constitution forcing our government to balance the budget every year. Promising to make cuts in federal spending is one thing, but an amendment to the Constitution demanding it is quite another.
A Balanced Budget Amendment would legally force Congress to spend only what it takes in, and it protects taxpayers and small businesses from the threat of higher taxes to cover Washington's spending habits. In addition to finally getting our nation's fiscal house in order, a balanced budget creates certainty among small business owners and will subsequently lead to a better environment for job creation.
In 1995, Congress came within one vote of passing a Balanced Budget Amendment. Here we are 16 years later, and more than $9 trillion has been added to our national debt since -- a 180 percent increase. Unemployment is over 9 percent. I can't help but wonder how different things would be had that Amendment passed.
Our national debt is currently higher than any time in American history, and it is on track to surpass the size of our entire economy in just a few years. We are borrowing roughly 40 cents of every dollar we spend -- much of it from China. Worst of all - we are passing this crushing debt burden to our children and grandchildren.
Congress now has an opportunity to get it right today when we vote on legislation to require a balanced budget amendment be sent to the states for ratification. I will support this amendment because if Pennsylvania families have to live within their means, so must Washington.