Proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution

Floor Speech

By:  Judy Chu
Date: Nov. 17, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. CHU. Proponents of this bill claim it is about fiscal responsibility, but it is the opposite. This bill makes it impossible, in fact unconstitutional, for the government to save for the future. Under this bill, programs like Social Security or long term Federal highway projects would have to be completely eliminated to comply with the Constitution.

Today, American workers put money into a Social Security trust fund built to pay and save for future benefits. But under this shortsighted constitutional amendment, money coming into the Federal Government must be paid out the same year. That means you can't have a Social Security trust fund, so good-bye Social Security. Good-bye saving for retirement.

Let me tell you how bad this idea is. Let's say for a moment that this was your family's budget. If this constitutional budget amendment applied to you, you would have to spend everything you earned in the same year. No college fund or IRA, no savings account to put a downpayment on a house or, God forbid, to pay for expensive medical treatment. Not only is that ludicrous, it is tragic.

If that weren't bad enough, if this constitutional amendment goes through and no revenues are raised, all government programs will suffer a 17.3 percent cut. That's a $1.2 trillion reduction in Social Security payments through 2021. That is nearly a 20 percent reduction that would directly hurt current and future retirees and senior citizens for the next decade.

This so-called balanced budget amendment balances overzealous budget slashing on the backs of our senior citizens and future retirees. Does Congress really want to send the message now, in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, that saving responsibly for the future is unconstitutional? Is Congress prepared to abandon millions of Americans now? I, for one, am not. And so I urge my colleagues to oppose this reckless constitutional amendment.

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