Snowe and DeMint: We Need a Balanced Budget Amendment

Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Jim DeMint have an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal calling for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. I know, what an odd couple. But if you think about it, the fact that the two of them are teaming up just goes to show what a fiscal disaster we have on our hands. You should really follow the link and read the whole thing, but here are a few snippets.

There has to be another way, and there is. Republicans in the Senate are united in our concern about our nation’s fiscal future. Before we consider saddling our children with even more debt, we must enact significant spending cuts and enforceable caps on future spending. For the long term, to prevent both this Congress and its successors from hijacking the promise of American prosperity, we also need a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, like the one we and all 47 Senate Republicans have introduced.

On the epic scale of the problem:

The U.S. currently spends an astounding $200 billion per year just to pay interest on its debt, an annual amount projected to reach nearly $1 trillion by 2021. Money spent on debt-interest payments is money not invested in our economy, jobs, infrastructure or education. Economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have found that gross debt levels above 90% of GDP slow economic growth by 1% per year. First-quarter GDP growth this year was already abysmal at 1.9%. At that rate, China would surpass the U.S. economy in size even before 2016, the year recently forecast by the International Monetary Fund.

Holding future Congresses accountable:

Why will this approach work where others have failed? For one single reason: As senators and representatives, we take an oath to uphold the Constitution. By amending the Constitution, Congress will be forever bound to match our nation’s expenditures with our revenues. Toothless resolutions and statutory speed bumps have proven easy to evade or ignore. Indeed, the reason many lawmakers don’t want a balanced budget amendment is the exact reason why we need it: It would permanently end the types of legislative trickery that have now brought our country to the fiscal brink.

The last time the Senate considered a balanced budget amendment was on March 4, 1997—and it failed to pass by one vote. On that day 14 years ago, the nation’s outstanding debt was $5.36 trillion. Today it is $14.3 trillion, or nearly three times that amount.

It sounds good to me, although I would also like to see some provision that requires a super-majority vote in both houses of Congress to raise taxes.