U.S. needs balanced budget

First Posted: 2/13/2015

Families get it. Most states get it. Now is the time for the federal government to get it: You shouldn’t spend more than you earn.

For reasons frankly baffling to us, there is still a fight about the ridiculously simple notion that it’s bad if your bills exceed your income. Over the past 50 years, the federal government took in more than it spent just five times, including 1969, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001.

We miss those good ol’ days when the government lived within its means, just like its citizens must.

The federal debt is $18 trillion as of December, or $58,604 per citizen. The average median household income in 2013 was just $51,939, so it would take more than a year for the average Joe to pay off his share, and then he wouldn’t have anything left for living expenses.

At some point, things must change. Common sense, which isn’t so common for the folks in Washington sometimes, calls for rules requiring the wiser use of money.

The best solution for balancing the budget is electing leadership that will work together to solve this problem collaboratively. Suffice to say, that’s something that only happens in a perfect world, and no one is accusing the world in which we live today of being perfect.

Thus, the focus is growing for a Constitutional Amendment that would require Uncle Sam to keep the credit card in his wallet and the cash in his hand.

It’s hardly a new idea. Republicans proposed one during the Carter administration.

All states except Vermont have either a constitutional or statutory requirement to balance their state budgets. These states have no wiggle room; they must balance their budget each and every year. Despite what some people in Washington might tell you, it’s possible to balance your budget and not borrow money to finance your spending problems.

Congress could propose an amendment to the Constitution. That’s how all 27 of the current amendments came through, with at least two-thirds of the House and Senate asking for it. People with spending addictions aren’t usually the ones to volunteer cutting up the credit cards, though.

This movement’s best bet is through at least two-thirds of the state legislatures calling for a constitutional convention. That’s the movement afoot right now.

We’re happy to see Matt Huffman, the former state representative for Allen County, staying at the forefront of the discussion on making this a constitutional requirement.

Gov. John Kasich, who signed Ohio’s support of a balanced budget amendment while visiting Lima last year, went on a swing out West in January to gather support for it. He hit sit states — Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — during that swing.

The movement would need 34 states to join in for a convention. So far, 24 states have active resolutions for an amendment, according to the Balance Budget Amendment Task Force.

Ohio’s already on board, so we need to be national leaders on this issue in pushing others.

In the mean time, we also urge Congress to return to its traditional lead position in making changes to the Constitution. Republicans are in control of the House and Senate, and there are plenty of fair-minded Democrats out there capable of breaking ranks for a cause as noble as not bankrupting the government.

The time for reckless spending is long since past, and we can’t count on future generations to pay our bills.

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