Appearing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-KY.) told host Christiane Amanpour he would push for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
This is an idea whose time has come. In 1994, Republicans campaigned — and won — on a balanced budget amendment (as part of the Contract with America). Back then, the deficit was just $203 billion. Today, the national deficit is at $1.4 trillion (that’s roughly $3,500 for each American, and some $14,000 for each family of four in deficit spending just this year alone).
Most states require their elected officials to balance their budget each year, but no such requirement impedes the reckless spending of the United States federal government. A constitutional amendment would bar the federal government from spending more money than it brings in each year — and require a supermajority in order to raise taxes. This is not a radical idea, but the consequences of failing to enact such a measure cannot be overstated.
Fortunately, as evidenced by the Tea Party movement, there appears to finally be the political will required to get this done. Newly elected Republicans simply must realize they weren’t elected to merely “trim” spending or “slow down” the rate of government growth, but rather, to cut, de-authorize and balance the budget. (If they fail to grasp this fact, it will be a short and depressing two years).
It is also worth noting that the conservative movement is united behind this cause. That Senator-elect Paul was the one to reignite this debate after the GOP’s historic victory on Tuesday is not terribly surprising — he campaigned on this. And though he represents the libertarian wing of the conservative movement (his father ran for president as a Libertarian), his vocal support is indicative of the broad-based support for this amendment.
The financial crisis has galvanized the disparate elements of the conservative movement, just as the threat of Communism united the “three legs” of the conservative movement during the Reagan years (like Communism, the deficit has become an existential threat to our freedom).
As a Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council (FRC), I’ve seen first hand that social conservatives view the economic crisis — and, more specifically, a balanced budget — as a moral issue. Similarly, national security conservatives realize it’s a security issue (America’s debt is being lent by foreign interests, with China being the largest single holder). This is an issue that transcends the normal dividing lines, and unites us.
Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a solid full-spectrum conservative who is just as at home at a Club for Growth meeting as he is at a Christian Coalition dinner, and others, are expected to lead the charge on a balanced budget amendment. The additional Tea Party conservatives who were elected on Tuesday will aid them. But they will need reinforcements.
That’s why I have agreed to serve as chairman for a new group, “Balanced Budget Amendment Now.”
Our organization will launch an aggressive campaign to pass a balanced budget amendment. This will include building an infrastructure needed to enlist a minimum of 5,000 supporters in each congressional district to urge their members of Congress to vote for an amendment.
Our goal is to accomplish a vote on a balanced budget amendment by October 1, 2011. (Senator-elect Mike Lee (R-UT) has graciously agreed to draft the balanced budget amendment language for us — and to enlist the support of his colleagues).
There are many issues vital to our future, but I can think of none more worthy than this effort.
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of the “fierce urgency of now.” I would urge all Americans to consider the urgency of passing a balanced budget amendment.
The Honorable Ken Blackwell is on the Board of Directors for the Club for Growth and National Tax Payers Union. And the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at Family Research Council.