Today, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) teamed up with Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) to push a Balanced Budget Amendment, legislation that would mandate that Congress balance its books every year. Senator Hatch has been a proponent of a balanced-budget amendment for many years and should be commended for continuing to carry the torch despite defeats in ’95 and ’97. This legislation, even if passed by the beginning of the new fiscal year — that is, by October 1, 2011 — would not undo the damage caused by a $14 trillion national debt. But it would be a great start. The harsh truth is that the economic future of the country depends on it.
A balanced budget hasn’t been achieved since the 1990s, and whether or not it’s a characterization widely accepted, this kind of fiscal irresponsibility is a form of slavery. Upon releasing this year’s Index of Economic Freedom, the Heritage Foundation called economic freedom the “foundation” of all other freedoms. (Sadly, the U.S. lost ground in this year’s Index, dropping behind Denmark.) Heritage defines economic freedom as the “fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state.”
Freshman Tea Party Republicans have pledged to address budget issues, hoping to meet the desires of the constituents that elected them. Congress convenes amid talk of budget concerns such as deficit reduction, earmarks, and the cost of government largesse. Now, the possibility of a balanced-budget amendment will be part of this debate. The idea is hardly new, but never in our nation’s history has the need for such an amendment been more necessary to ensuring the future prosperity of the United States.
Hopefully Senators Hatch and Cornyn will lay out the argument for the amendment in the halls of Capitol Hill. The measured tones and brave actions of these conservative members of Congress could be the guiding force that begins the very serious effort to correct our current fiscal crisis.
— Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union.