Thomas Jefferson once stated that if he could make any change to the constitution it would be to deny congress the power to borrow money. How much better off would we be today if Jefferson had his way?
A balanced budget amendment is not as straight forward as one would think. We would have lost World War II without the power to borrow money. Jefferson himself called congress into a special session when Napoleon Bonaparte offered to sell 828,800 square miles to the US for $15,000,000. This was a good deal and Jefferson wanted to execute the purchase before France could change her mind.
Another thing to keep in mind are the shell games politicians play. When a state goes to the people to get approval for a state lottery or other revenue increasing scheme, they almost always include language stating that all the revenue raised will go to some virtuous cause, like schools or to care for the elderly. This leads people to believe that the revenue raised will be on top of the revenue the schools (or other virtuous cause) already receives. In fact this is never the case. If the lottery raised $100,000,000 dollars for the schools it merely frees up $100,000,000 of education funds to go back to the general fund. It just becomes more play money for the politicians. Any balanced budget amendment must prevent this.
One thing we do not wish to allow is perpetual debt. We cannot allow congress to mortgage the future of unborn generations.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment
1. The United States government shall have two budgets; one for national defense and one for everything else. The defense budget and the general budget shall have separate revenue streams. Revenue may be transferred from the general budget to the military budget; however, money shall be be transferred from the defense budget to the general budget.
2. Congress shall have power borrow money for national defense with a simple majority of both the house and the senate and with the signature of the President, upon the following conditions:
- Congress has declared war.
- Actually combat is taking place.
- There is a draft and the children of congressmen are being drafted.
(The war has to be real.)
3. Congress shall have power to borrow money for the purchase of new territory, up to the purchase price of said territory) with a simple majority of both the house and the senate and with the signature of the President.
4. Congress shall have the power to borrow money for any other purpose with a simply majority approval of both the house and the senate, plus two percent for each consecutive year that the United States has carried a debt.
If the US was debt free and congress wished to borrow money they could do so with a 50% plus one vote majority in both the house and the senate. If they wished to borrow more money the next year and they had not paid the debt from the previous year, it would require a 52% majority. If they had carried a debt for ten years then a 70% majority would be required. If they carried a debt for twenty five years it would require a 100% majority, plus one vote to borrow more money. The party is over. At this point they cannot borrow any more money until all outstanding debts are paid off (unless they chose to purchase Siberia or they needed to finance a war).
Cross posted from A2 Curriculum