The United States of America is more than $27 trillion in debt, with trillion-dollar deficits projected for years to come. The U.S. debt to GDP ratio has skyrocketed to an unsustainable 127 percent, the highest it has been since World War II.
In other words, the United States is on the verge of a debt crisis.
Unfortunately, it seems far-fetched to think that our current crop of political leaders, especially those in the U.S. Congress, will adequately address this burgeoning economic calamity.
In fact, it is highly likely that the recently inaugurated 117th U.S. Congress and the incoming Biden administration will add trillions more to the national debt.
In short, the United States is deep in debt and we can no longer rely on our political representatives to stop spending money we no do not have.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this quandary: a balanced budget amendment (BBA).
Since the nation’s founding, there have been calls for adding a BBA to the U.S. Constitution.
In 1798, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government; I mean an additional article taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing.” Several other Founding Fathers agreed with Jefferson, including James Madison and James Q. Wilson.
In 1935, during the height of FDR’s New Deal deficit spending, “the first measure designed effectively to require the federal budget to be balanced” was formally filed in Congress, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Six decades later, in 1995, the BBA re-entered the national conversation, when it was included as a prominent feature of the GOP’s Contract with America. In early 1995, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the BBA, although it was narrowly defeated in the U.S. Senate.
However, the 1995 BBA vote and the public support of it helped lead to the federal government balancing the budget for the first time in 30 years in 1999.
However, the era of fiscal responsibility was short-lived and seems like a lifetime ago now. Since 1999, the federal government has added more than $22 trillion to the national debt, with no end in sight.
In the past two decades, the U.S. national debt has increased exponentially. For more than twenty years, Congress has spent trillions at home and abroad. From dubious wars to new and expanded entitlement programs, the U.S. Congress has abdicated any notion of fiscal restraint, which has led to the dire situation we are now facing.
The time for a balanced budget amendment is now. We the people cannot rely on our congressional leaders to be prudent with our nation’s finances. They have failed miserably, and they must not be allowed to do further damage.
Thankfully, the Founding Fathers anticipated that something like this could happen, which is precisely why they included Article V into the U.S. Constitution, which provides a path for state legislatures to propose amendments to the Constitution.
Because Congress has been derelict in their duty, it is high time that the states come together, call for a convention, and propose and ratify a balanced budget amendment.
Chris Talgo ([email protected]) is an editor at The Heartland Institute.