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Vote “YES” on the Balanced Budget Amendment!
An Open Letter to the United States House of Representatives:
November 14, 2011
On behalf of the 362,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I strongly urge you to vote in favor of H.J. Res. 2, the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) that will be considered on the floor this week. By preventing the reckless accumulation of debt, the BBA can help to get our enormous fiscal problems under control in order to avoid a crippling economic crisis. NTU supports several BBAs, including H.J. Res. 2, which most closely resembles the version NTU and many of its allies worked to pass through the House in 1995. Roll call votes on the BBA will be among the most heavily-weighted of the year in our annual Rating of Congress and a “YES” vote will be considered the pro-taxpayer position. Any weaker BBA substitutes, such as those exempting certain federal programs, are unacceptable and deserve a “NO” vote.
In the past decade, under the direction of Presidents and lawmakers from both parties, our federal budget has expanded dramatically no matter what measure one consults. At the dawn of the new millennium in 2001, federal outlays were about $1.8 trillion or 18.2 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. However, through the middle of the decade we saw an ultimately unsustainable explosion in spending driven by such factors as the creation of a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, a Medicare prescription drug benefit, and increased expenditures on defense and education. The modest spending discipline of the 1990s eroded rapidly, and when one adds so-called “crisis response” spending – such as the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) of 2008 or the $862 billion “economic stimulus” bill of 2009 – the picture grows even bleaker. Our budget is now more than twice as large as in 2001 and an incredible flood of red ink awaits us in coming years unless we begin a serious reform effort immediately.
Passage of the BBA is not a substitute for the hard work of reducing spending and restructuring our unsustainable entitlement programs, but it will provide Congress the necessary guidelines within which that work can be completed while protecting our children and grandchildren from the crushing debt burdens that threaten their future prosperity. H.J. Res. 2 would enshrine in our Constitution a principle that was simply assumed by our Founders: that the federal government should not spend more than it takes in, absent a specific emergency. Unfortunately, decades of fiscal mismanagement have proven that Congress as an institution is no longer capable of restraining itself, and that durable constitutional safeguards must play a role in limiting government. Washington has run deficits during 45 of the last 50 years. This fact ought to give pause even to die-hard Keynesians, who believe surpluses should be the norm in most economic growth cycles.
H.J. Res. 2 is not a silver bullet and it is not perfect. We have for decades urged Congress to enact limits on spending and taxation, in addition to this BBA’s limits on debt. Tax and expenditure limitations are as necessary today as they have ever been, but this fact should not be used to justify opposition to a common-sense measure making irresponsible deficit spending much more difficult and ensuring more accountable tax policy. Consider what might have happened had the BBA not failed by just one vote in the Senate in the 1990s. While many argue that a “clean” BBA could prove to be a tax trap, they would be hard-pressed to point out what tax increases would have passed had the measure been in effect for the last decade and a half. Meanwhile, it is likely that our debt would be on the order of $10 trillion smaller than it is today.
Neither the current generation of taxpayers nor future ones can afford further delays in passing a BBA. This Congress must send H.J. Res. 2 to the states for ratification now.
Sincerely,Andrew Moylan Vice President of Government Affairs