Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution last week which requires Washington to live within its means.
The amendment limits the ability of Congress to run deficits and add to the national debt of 16.4 trillion dollars.
Lee says all of Congress’s past efforts to balance the budget have failed. He believes this proposed amendment is the way to actually make progress in getting rid of the nation’s debt.
“Washington’s insatiable need to borrow and spend has put off difficult decisions and threatened the prosperity of future generations. It is unconscionable and immoral,” said Lee.
The proposed amendment requires Congress to spend no more than it takes during any fiscal year and limits spending to 18 percent of the gross national product.
Congress can only run a deficit, raise taxes or increase the debt limit if agreed to by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.
Lee has advocated two previous versions of the balanced budget amendment.
“We have an obligation to correct course and put the country on a responsible path to fiscal sustainability,” Lee said. “Families, businesses, and state and local governments are all expected to live within their means. The federal government should do the same.”
Earl Fry, political science professor at BYU, says some changes will need to be made in entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. He says government defense spending will also need to be cut back.
“We are going to have to look at programs and make some changes,” he said. “We need to be far more disciplined.”
Fry says what Lee is proposing makes sense but believes cutting government spending alone won’t do it.
“We need to create jobs. If we have economic growth, that will bring revenue into the government,” he said.
He says an important way to increase revenues would be to clean up the tax code in a way that will not affect the middle class.
“We need a balance between government cutbacks and revenues, and a good way to balance it off is cleaning up the tax code,” Fry said. “We need to not give favors to corporations.”
Hannah Wheelwright, co-president of BYU Democrats, disagrees and believes now is not the best time to introduce a balanced budget amendment.
“I think in times when the economy is doing fine, it’s great to have a balanced budget amendment,” Wheelwright said. “But in times of recession it’s important for the government to have the flexibility to spend in ways that will help the economy.”