Balancing the Federal Budget Can Start in the States

Time is running out. Our nation is trillions of dollars in debt without a credible plan to stop spending. The battle in Congress has escalated to a point where politics outweighs the cost of our economic future, and there is little hope our nation’s leaders will make the tough choices that need to be made in order to reign in our debt and revive our economy.

Fortunately, there is a solution outside of Congress—a solution that Professor Rob Natelson outlines in ALEC’s new Article V Handbook. Our Founders knew the importance of checks and balances. In the United States Constitution, they enumerated one of the most important roles states have in keeping the federal government in check. Under Article V, states are granted the right to require Congress to call a convention of the states, during which states can propose amendments to the Constitution. For decades we have allowed Congress to run rampant, spending as it pleases. In 30 years, Congress has managed to balance the budget only twice.

It is far too easy for the appropriators of our nation’s funds to spend without limit and outside of reason, but that is something that can be remedied. The solution is an amendment to the Constitution that imposes greater accountability on Congress and requires a balanced budget. The stipulations of such an amendment would need to ensure spending does not exceed revenue and prohibit borrowing money to make up for any shortfalls.

In 1957, my state of Indiana was the first to apply for a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Since then, many other states have followed suit. Balancing our budget transcends party politics. No matter who controls Congress or the presidency, our $15.5 trillion dollar (and growing) national debt will remain an ever-present hurdle to economic growth and recovery. The problem won’t be going away any time soon, either. More than 30 years of deficits cannot be solved with only one year of policy.

Today America faces an uncertain economic future. Millions of Americans are unemployed, and some even suggest America faces a new normal in economic mediocrity. Spending ourselves into more debt won’t solve that problem; in fact, doing so will only make it worse. State legislators must take the long-sighted view and exercise our rights within the Constitution to limit Congress’s ability to drive our nation into further economic decay. ALEC’s new Article V Handbook is your guide to achieving that goal.

Sen. Jim Buck, Indiana

Chair, Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force,
American Legislative Exchange Council

In Depth: Federalism

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