Monday, July 26, 2010

Pull up, America! A constitutional amendment is long overdue

by David Alvord

We've all seen a movie like this: The hero rushes towards a cockpit only to find that the airplane's pilots have parachuted-out minutes ago. The plane is plummeting towards the ground as the altimeter is spinning like a fan. The protagonist looks stunned as he decides what to do next. He puts his hands on the wheel while the camera zooms in on his face as beads of sweat form. "PULL UP ON THE CONTROLS" we all scream, (at least in our minds).

America is facing a similar fiscal crisis. But too few are demanding that we "pull up"... and make the needed correction.

This year, Americans will pay 2.1 trillion dollars in taxes. Yet, in spite of this gargantuan income, the federal government will spend 3.6 trillion taxpayer dollars causing the deficit to reach 1.4 trillion dollars! This is money that is going to be spent by the government in excess of the taxes collected.

Put another way, the government is spending 170% of what it is able to bring in. That is like an individual making 50K and spending 80K that same year. Obamacare has yet to be paid for, and retiring baby boomers start their entry into social security and medicare next year. We can expect federal expenses will only increase as an aging population begins to collect their entitlements.

The CBO's latest report said:

Unless policymakers restrain the growth of spending, increase revenues significantly as a share of GDP, or adopt some combination of those two approaches, growing budget deficits will cause debt to rise to unsupportable levels.

(Pull up! Pull up! Is anyone listening?)

"...a growing level of federal debt would also increase the probability of a sudden fiscal crisis, during which investors would lose confidence in the government’s ability to manage its budget..." (CBO 7/27/2010)

The Democrats argue that taxes must be raised, but offer little by way of spending decreases. Worse, their party seems drunk on spending at the time. And so, it begs the question: Can any amount of taxing satisfy the spending habits of Washington? Could the economy afford this added burden? Will businesses continue to hire if they are so heavily taxed? The answer is obvious: No! And there is no amount of taxing could ever cover the spend-lust of those currently in power. Besides, many economists will argue (correctly, I believe) that an increased tax burden would actually hurt the overall economy and that the IRS would, in fact, collect less money. The increase in taxation without a decrease in spending can only result in an increased deficit.

Where is the cap? Where is the limit? When do we say enough is enough?

An unknown author once noted:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result: the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy."

Can our democracy exist as a permanent form of government? Will we watch from afar as the fiscal solvency of the country plummets towards the ground? Are we naive enough to think that a collapse wouldn't effect us individually. Can the republic be saved?

I believe it can, if we make the necessary changes NOW. Unlike a pure democracy, we are a Constitutionally-based democratic Republic. Our constitution has the power to keep us together and to keep us fiscally sane if we will use the tool the founders left for us: the power to amend the constitution.

The solution to our fiscal problems isn't complicated. Simply put, the federal government needs to live within its means. Like any family or individual that has to prioritize its expenditures and abide by a budget, so must our government prioritize its expenditures and stay within a budget. But there must be force. The budget must have teeth.

Therefore, I propose a Fixed Budget Constitutional Amendment. This Amendment would go beyond that of a "balanced-budget amendment". The problem with a balanced-budget amendment is that if congress wants to spend more, all they have to do is raise taxes...just as long as the budget is balanced. No. We can do better than that. And frankly, we must do better than that.

The Fixed Budget Constitutional Amendment (hereafter FBCA) would mandate that congress shall not spend more than the National Fixed Budget for the year. This NFB would be figured by taking the national GDP of the previous year and then multiplying that by the percent we Americans feel should go towards federal government expenditures. I think 10% of the GDP should be more than adequate to cover what we really need our government to do for us. Maybe the actual percent could be debated and voted on. But once agreed upon, it would be the law of the land.

The FBCA could be worded as follows:

"Congress shall not authorize spending beyond that of the National Fixed Budget. The National Fixed Budget shall be no more than ten percent of the previous year's national Gross Domestic Product as certified by independent auditors. Taxes shall not be collected in excess of the National Fixed Budget."

By the way, 10% of the GDP would be 1.4 Trillion dollars. This is more than adequate to protect our nation from foreign invaders, as well as pay for infrastructure and welfare. But that is the point. Congress will have to argue and get the consent of the people about how to spend the 1.4 trillion. Maybe the people want NASA. Maybe the people want military. Maybe they want free pop vending machines. But whatever congress allocates money towards, it must keep in mind that it can spend no more than the fixed amount. As the population grows, and as the economy grows, the amount of dollars government can spend will increase, but not the percent, that remains fixed, unless another amendment comes along. If a threat to our security arises, other programs must be curtailed to pay for it. 1.4 trillion could buy a lot of bombs and F22s, even if we can't build new roads or pay for NPR for a couple of years. If we stay out of debt, we'll have the economy to support another war should our enemies dare threaten our freedom!

It is imperative that we, the people, take bold action to insure that our form of government remains. Our freedom has been a bright light and unique gift in all the history of the world. Our children deserve to receive an inheritance of freedom, not an inheritance of debt and oppression. Now is the time to "pull up on the wheel" by employing fiscal restraint and wise leadership. I believe that God has given us the Constitution for this very reason and that only a constitutional amendment has the power to enforce the fiscal sanity that Washington so dreadfully lacks.

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