It is past time to adopt a balanced budget amendment

Daniel Hung

On Jan. 8, Governor Abbott called for a constitutional convention to adopt nine proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Among the most important of the proposed amendments is the balanced budget amendment, which would require Congress to not spend more than it receives. Almost every U.S. state, as well as some other countries such as Germany, is required to balance its budget. Balancing the budget is common sense. No government can constantly spend more than it has without going bankrupt, and America will face this dire result if it does not pass a balanced budget amendment.

In 2000 the national debt was $5.7 trillion and 44.7% of the GDP; today it is $18.9 trillion and 115% of the GDP. Throughout these years, not only was there a failure to pass a balanced budget, but the U.S. ran immense budget deficits which tripled the national debt. In 2015 the Federal Government received $3.249 trillion but spent $3.688 trillion, thus running a $439 billion deficit which was added to the national debt. It is just as problematic that the interest payment alone on the national debt was $430 billion in 2014.

This path is unsustainable, and we only have to look at Greece to see where we will be in the near future if the U.S. does not start balancing its budget and paying off its debt. Just ten years ago Greece had about the same debt-to-GDP ratio we have today. Politicians of both parties lack the political will to balance the budget, thus they should be required to do so through a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Opponents claim that requiring Congress to balance the budget would leave it unable to act in times of national emergencies, such as war or economic recession. These opponents, however, tend to ignore that the proposed balanced budget amendment does create exceptions for such emergencies.

Other opponents claim that balancing the budget would involve painful cuts to government spending. But by not cutting spending today, we are all but ensuring even more devastating cuts to government spending in the future. For example, perhaps to balance the budget today we will need to make cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense spending and more. On the other hand, if we do not balance the budget today, future generations might not even get the benefits of these programs.

The examples set by states such as Texas and countries such as Germany prove balancing the budget is not only doable, but the right thing to do. To ensure that future generations receive the same benefits as those today, the U.S. needs to adopt the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Hung is a second-year law student from Brownsville.