Saturday, August 6, 2011

Call for a Debt Limit Amendment to the USA Constitution

It's time to adopt a Debt Limit Amendment.

Much has been said about a Balanced Budget Amendment. But critics have correctly pointed out that there are inevitably years when it is not feasible to balance the budget. Emergencies do happen.

Obviously, in the likely event of a budget shortfall, going into debt is not the only theoretical choice. A well-managed house simply dips into its rainy day fund. Going into debt is the fool's resort.

But since spending is addictive, debt always increases until it reaches a limit of some type, either external or internal. If an internal limit is not enforced, an external limit will eventually be reached and enforced by outside forces. The USA national debt, that now equals seven years of income, is reaching an external limit as Standard and Poor and China have made clear today and yesterday.

Since it is not possible to avoid an external debt limit, and since external debt limits are painful, it is wise to set an internal debt limit that will maximize happiness. The debt limit that maximizes happiness is Debt Limit Zero.

We have no good excuse not to work toward Debt Limit Zero. Working toward Debt Limit Zero requires an austere refusal to spend money that doesn't exist. It requires judiciously conservative estimates of future income and nimble reductions in expenditures when necessary. But we are not ignorant, and we are not apathetic. We need to adopt a Debt Limit Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I propose that the Debt Limit amendment should have language such as the following:

"The United States of America shall have no outstanding debts at the end of any year after 2050.

"At the end of every year before the year 2050, Congress shall have no outstanding debts greater than 500 billion dollars multiplied by the number of years remaining until the end of 2050.

"Unless the national debt or reserves position has been one year of income better than required by this amendment during five of the previous ten years, Congress shall budget yearly to reserves, or until 2050 to debt reduction, one tenth of projected revenue."

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