Weekly Columns

The Clearest Sign Yet We Need a Balanced Budget Amendment

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Washington, April 11, 2018 | Lani Short (202-225-6356) | comments

Earlier this week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an alarming projection about future budget deficits over the next 10 years. While CBO doesn’t always get it right, this warning cry should hit home for every American; it certainly does for me. If out-of-control spending is left unchecked, CBO predicts America’s deficit will surpass $1 trillion by 2020. To me, this is the clearest sign yet that we have to pass a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment, which the House will consider this week.

First, let me dispel one of the biggest myths there is: that somehow last year’s tax cuts are responsible for our nation’s budget deficits. Last year, the federal government took in $3.3 trillion in revenue. That is the most revenue that has been collected – ever. In fact, since 2010, federal revenue has increased $1.1 trillion – a 53 percent increase, or just less than 8 percent annually. And we should expect revenue growth to continue because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because as our economy grows and more jobs and prosperity are created, revenue to the federal government will grow, even at lower across-the-board tax rates.

Another myth that’s been put out there is that discretionary spending is responsible for our annual budget deficits. Discretionary spending is the funding Congress votes on every year, and funds our military, education, veterans programs, environmental programs, etc. This part of the budget – because Congress reviews it annually – has been well-controlled. Over the past 14 years, since 2004, our discretionary budget has only grown 34 percent, which is just over 2.4 percent growth annually. Even with the recently-passed Omnibus, discretionary spending is still growing at a manageable pace.

So what causes our budget deficits? Primarily, the deficits are driven by our mandatory programs that are on autopilot – programs like Medicaid, SNAP, Social Security and Medicare. Over the same 14 year time period, our mandatory program spending has doubled, growing at 7.5 percent per year. This is unsustainable. This will require hard choices, but Congress will only make those hard choices if it’s forced to.

That’s why, this week, I am proud to support H.J.Res. 2, a constitutional amendment that will require a balanced budget. If ratified, a balanced budget amendment would require the federal government to balance its budget annually, just like states and families do, unless the country is at war. I am a proud cosponsor of this legislation. A Balanced Budget Amendment is the only way we will ever tackle the growing threat caused by deficit spending. By passing this amendment, we can work together to repair the damage that’s been done over the years through out-of-control spending.

Forty-eight states, including Tennessee, have balanced-budget requirements. It’s time for Washington to live by the same rules and take this critical step to get our spending under control. Our children and grandchildren’s futures and the future of our democracy depends on it.

Feel free to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you or your family.
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Tags: Budget