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Public Statements

Proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WATT. I thank the gentleman for yielding time.

I haven't heard this said since I've been sitting on the floor listening to the debate, but if anybody has said it, I want to express my agreement with them. We cannot continue to spend more year after year after year than we receive. That is unsustainable, and with that, I cannot argue. However, I disagree that we need a balanced budget amendment to make that point.

I have no balanced budget amendment to operate my household. Some years I have borrowed money and gone in debt, and some years I have accumulated a surplus and paid down that debt. I'm sure that's the way every American citizen operates their life, trying to make responsible decisions and not hiding behind some subterfuge like a balanced budget amendment.

Being responsible, I went into debt to go to college. It was a wonderful investment because I wouldn't be here today if I had not done that. And I paid that debt back in some years where I generated surpluses in my household--as a result of going to college. I went into debt to buy a house. It's been a wonderful investment. The house has a lot more value now than what I paid for it. It is part of my assets. And one of these days, I'm going to pay that debt off. But I'm still, if you count that, operating in a deficit situation. There are some years that I'm in surplus. There are some years that I'm in deficit. The one thing I do know, whether I'm in deficit or surplus, I count the income, and I count the expenditures.

Balancing a budget is not just about how much you spend; it is also about how much you take in. And the government's only source of taking in money is tax revenues. So for somebody to come in here and lecture me about a balanced budget amendment, when they jumped up from discussions and said, I'm not going to talk about revenues in an effort to balance the budget, I'm just going to have you talk about expenditures--that is unacceptable to me.

Let's grow up in this institution. Act responsibly and make tough decisions, and we can get out of this deficit situation, and we can pay off the debt. We have proved it. We proved it while I was here in this body. We got to the point that Chairman Greenspan at that time was saying, hey, I'm worried that you're going to pay off the national debt too fast and it's going to be deflationary. Republicans were not in control then. We didn't have a balanced budget amendment then.


Mr. WATT. We didn't have a balanced budget amendment then. We acted responsibly, and not with a single vote from the people who are here lecturing us today and saying they need a balanced budget to stand behind. That's like standing behind my mother's skirt.

Grow up. Make responsible decisions. Quit going into wars that we can't afford to pay for and not paying for them. Make some responsible decisions, and you won't need this skirt to stand behind. We don't need this. It's irrational. The American people know it's irrational because they know that balancing a budget is a function of income and expenditures.


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