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Let Us Pass a Balanced Budget Amendment

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GARRETT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favor of a balanced budget amendment, and some would say it's the only solution to our current fiscal crisis.

Statesmen throughout the history of our Republic have stressed the importance of fiscal responsibility, but it's the voice of Thomas Jefferson that, I think, we must pay particular attention to.

Thomas Jefferson bore the burden of debt throughout his entire life, and some historians have argued that Jefferson's personal experiences influenced his thinking about the public debt as well. Jefferson inherited a significant amount of debt at the young age of 31, and some say his own spending added to that and worsened his financial condition personally during his life. When he died, he, unfortunately, passed his debt on to his descendants, which is exactly what this Federal Government is doing now to future generations today.

So, if the Federal Government says that it's so concerned about the welfare of our children and the next generation and the next generation, then we should be taking the time right now to address this staggering public debt that our children and our grandchildren will stand to inherit if our leaders here in Congress fail to have the courage to--what?--cut spending and to balance our budget and to live within our means.

Jefferson had a moral message to the future public servants in this regard. He believed that those who are entrusted by their constituents to represent them, as he said, ``shall consider themselves unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts and are morally bound to pay them ourselves.''

Jefferson expanded on this message in a letter he wrote to James Madison in 1798. He said, ``Neither the representatives of a nation, nor the whole nation itself assembled, can validly engage debts beyond what they may pay in their own time.''

Still writing to Madison, he explicitly endorsed a balanced budget amendment, stating, ``With respect to future debts, would it not be wise and just for a nation to declare in its constitution that neither the legislature nor the nation, itself, can validly contract more debt than it may pay within its own age.''

So what would Jefferson think about where we are in this country today?

The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, has projected that maintaining all of our current spending would eventually require that the middle class in this country would have to have a tax rate of almost two-thirds of all their income--63 percent--and that the small businesses in this country would have to see their tax rates skyrocket up to 88 percent in order to cover all the spending.

These numbers have a real impact on the lives of individuals, on families, and on businesses. So, if Congress were then to keep on spending and have to raise taxes as much as the CBO has prescribed, Congress would do what? Congress would basically doom our families to a crushing tax burden, and this would smother the ability of businesses to expand and, therefore, to create jobs.

See, the economics of all this is very clear. If we refuse to address our spending problems, tax rates are going to have to rise, and they will rise in such a manner that would commit future generations to a tax burden to pay for--what?--the spending of today.

So we now, as often is the case, stand at a crossroads. We can continue to do as we have done in the past, which is to overspend and borrow and put this burden on our children, or we can do something else. We can demonstrate our commitment to a balanced budget by making it the supreme law of the land in this country.

Let me conclude then with a final quote from Jefferson:

``To preserve the people's independence, we must not let our government load us up with perpetual debt. We must make our selection between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude.''

So let's make Jefferson's dream a reality. Let us pass a balanced budget amendment.

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