North Santa Rosa

Congressman Jeff Miller’s Monthly Newsletter

In 1798, while serving as Vice President, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to then Virginia Delegate John Taylor in which he called for “a single amendment to our Constitution.”   Jefferson stated that this amendment would be so powerful that he “would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government.”  This amendment would be “an additional article taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing.”

Nearly 200 years later, in January 1995, the House of Representatives sought to make this a reality by passing a Balanced Budget Amendment with bipartisan support by a vote of 300-132.  This Balanced Budget Amendment would have solidified Jefferson’s desire to require the federal government to operate on a simple premise—don’t spend more money than you have.  With broad support from the American people, Jefferson’s unwritten amendment seemed destined to be sent to the states for ratification.  On March 2, 1995, the Senate voted on the amendment, which received 65 votes, one vote shy of the two-thirds majority necessary to send a Constitutional amendment to the states for ratification.

It has now been sixteen years since this vote, and we have seen the debt spiral further and further out of control.  Simply put, we are massively in debt because government spends too much.  Since 1995 the national debt has nearly tripled in size, and our debt-to-GDP ratio will soon reach 100 percent.  This is a ratio reached only once in our history, during the three years following World War II.  This year alone, despite collecting a staggering $2.2 trillion in taxes, the federal government will spend $3.7 trillion, an additional $1.5 trillion beyond its means.  As a result of this massive budget deficit, we are forced to borrow 40 cents on every dollar.  In fact, all federal spending after July 27thof this year is coming from borrowed money.  This excessive borrowing is even worse when you consider that so much of it comes from foreign countries, like China.  If we do not change our federal spending habits, in 10 years 95 percent of all federal tax revenues will be spent on interest payments on the national debt and mandatory programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. This would leave us with only 5 percent of our annual tax revenue for funding national defense and other essential functions of the government.

Our inflated debt also hampers our economy by creating an atmosphere of uncertainty.  The size and scope of our debt is worrying to our nation’s businesses, and, as a result, many are reluctant to invest the capital needed to create jobs. Take for example Home Depot.  Home Depot employs over 300,000 people at over 2,000 stores throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico and China.  In June of this year in an interview in Investors Business Daily, Bernie Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, said “Home Depot would never have succeeded if we’d tried to start it today…If we don’t lower spending and if we don’t deal with paying down the debt, we are going to have to raise taxes. Even brain-dead economists understand that when you raise taxes, you cost jobs.”  Businesses like Home Depot drive our economy and create widespread economic prosperity for Americans from all over the country.  We cannot allow excessive spending and burdensome regulation to destroy these companies before they can even get off the ground.

While House Republicans have taken steps to slow the growth of government, the Balanced Budget Amendment remains the ultimate key to solving our fiscal challenges now and in the future.  Spending cuts are necessary, but future Congresses can easily undo any cuts and ratchet up spending yet again.  That is why the Balanced Budget Amendment is so important.  Simply put, it is a game changer that forces Washington to play by the same rules as every single American household and 49 out of 50 states.

In my first term in Congress, I was an original cosponsor of a Balanced Budget Amendment which gained 127 cosponsors.  Throughout my time in Washington, support for a Balanced Budget Amendment has continued to grow amongst ordinary citizens and Members of Congress alike.  In the current Congress, I am a proud cosponsor of two Balanced Budget Amendment bills, and one of these bills already has 240 cosponsors, nearly enough to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment by the necessary two-thirds majority.   It is important to note that these bills include exemptions for extraordinary cases, such as a military conflict which causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security.  This exemption would only be triggered if such a national emergency was declared by a joint resolution of Congress.

Increased congressional support for a Balanced Budget Amendment is directly attributable to your calls for fiscal responsibility.  In fact, polls show that 95 percent of Americans believe that the current budget deficit is a problem and 65 percent favor a Balanced Budget Amendment.  As ordinary citizens continue to make their voices heard, many lawmakers who have been reluctant to support the Balanced Budget Amendment will be forced to rethink their positions.  I believe that we have a responsibility to let the American people have their say by voting on a Balanced Budget Amendment.  However, in order to send a Balanced Budget Amendment to the states for ratification, it must first pass both the House and Senate with a two-thirds majority.  I was glad to see that the Budget Control Act, passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the President last month, included a provision that ensures that Congress will once again vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment.   This bill requires that both the House and Senate must hold a vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment by the end of this year.  I look forward to casting my vote in favor of the Balanced Budget Amendment 213 years after it was first proposed by Thomas Jefferson.

Last year, House Republicans launched American Speaking Out, an interactive website where Americans from across the country could come together to discuss important issues and give suggestions to their elected officials.  As we prepare for the historic Balanced Budget Amendment vote, I encourage you let us know your perspective on the Balanced Budget Amendment by joining the discussion on America Speaking Out.

Posted by on Oct 4 2011. Filed under Local. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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