Friday, April 22, 2011

GUEST COLUMN: "It’s Time to Consider a Balanced Budget Amendment"

Rep. Jean Schmidt
By: Rep. Jean Schmidt

We have dug ourselves into quite a deep hole by spending money we don’t have and borrowing it from people who don’t have our best interests in mind. The White House says it has a plan to fix this problem. While I’d like to trust them to do the right thing and get this situation under control, I can’t. And, I’m not alone.

The United States has long been a good credit risk, and it still is. But, that may not last for long. The Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service has decided to downgrade its financial outlook for our country from “stable” to “negative.” It’s quite a kick in the pants.

Standard & Poor’s said the outlook was based on its lack of confidence that the White House and Congress would be able to deal with its deficit problem in the next three years and that there was a one-in-three chance that the U.S. triple-A credit rating could decline in the next couple of years.

It is shameful that we got here on good intentions, poor performance, and promises that nobody could keep.

Maybe it’s time to try something different. A constitutional amendment requiring that the federal government adopt balanced budgets has been talked about for decades, but has never gained enough support in Congress to be sent to the states for ratification.

With our annual deficits now being measured in the trillions of dollars, the sentiment in Congress may be changing. All 47 of the Senate’s Republican senators have signed on as co-sponsors of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. A majority of the House has expressed support as well.

Although impressive, the support in both houses of Congress is short of the two-thirds majority needed to send the proposed amendment to the state legislatures for ratification. So we still have to come up with the 71 votes in the House and 20 senators needed to clear the first hurdle for the amendment to become part of the Constitution.

Amending the Constitution is not a move to be taken lightly. But, given Washington’s failure to act until now, it may be our only option.