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Morgan: Time is Overdue for Federal Balanced Budget Amendment

Fred Morgan, President and CEO

Since the chamber first advocated for a federal balanced budget amendment in 1993, the national debt has quadrupled from $4.4 trillion to $17 trillion. That comes to $150,000 for every taxpayer in the country. It’s well past time for this common-sense reform.

If the individual states are the laboratories of democracy made famous by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, it’s time for the federal government to adopt this so-called experiment that 49 states currently live with. If the federal government won’t do it on its own, the people should take matters into their own hands. Deficit spending is crippling economic growth and saddling our children and grandchildren with a massive debt that will limit their future opportunities.

Currently 24 states have adopted balanced budget amendment resolutions. If another 10 do so, Congress must convene a constitutional convention addressing the single subject of a balanced federal budget amendment. Any such language would then still face ratification by 38 states.

Oklahoma should add its name to the list calling for this constitutional convention.

Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that the federal government doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. According to the White House’s website, the federal government is expected to collect $3 trillion in revenue this year, a record amount. This would have been enough to cover the budget in fiscal year 2008, but is more than $600 billion short for the current year. By simply reverting to pre-stimulus spending levels, the country could begin addressing its gargantuan debt.

It’s not going to be easy. Lawmakers in 49 states must make difficult spending decisions every year based on the amount of revenue they have; Congress and the president should do the same. It’s time to come together for serious discussions about what the role of the federal government should be.

Thomas Jefferson clearly did not want the government to spend more than it took in.

“To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt,” he said. “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution … an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.”

More than 200 years later, we are still waiting for that to happen. It’s time for the states to take action.

This article was posted in The Journal Record as part of Fred Morgan's monthly opinion editorial.

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