HERE it comes again - the explosive proposal that horrifies
government bureaucrats, worries President Clinton, but thrills many
taxpayers. It's the proposed balanced-budget amendment to the
United States Constitution.
Within weeks, Congress begins debating the 308-word amendment
that would touch every American's pocketbook. Advocates are
optimistic. Strong support is coming from Republicans and
Democrats, including the House and Senate freshmen class.
Foes are revving up their opposition, though. Sen. Robert Byrd
(D) of West Virginia, a strident critic, denounces the amendment as
a spineless retreat by lawmakers afraid to make tough budget
decisions. He condemns the amendment as "a cop-out" that is as
"phony as a $3 bill." He claims that it would put the economy in
a constitutional straitjacket.
Critics warn that if the amendment were passed, and if
Washington were forced to live within its income, taxes would rise,
Social Security payments would be cut, health-care reform would be
killed, and jobs would be lost.
Mr. Clinton, writing to Senate majority leader George Mitchell
(D) of Maine, urged the amendment's defeat, saying it would
"endanger our economy" by cutting outlays during recessions. "A
balanced-budget amendment could threaten the livelihoods of
millions of Americans," the president said. "I cannot put them in
Sen. Paul Simon (D) of Illinois, the Senate's leading champion
of the amendment, counters that unless deficits are eliminated,
every federal program is put at risk.
He told an American Association of Retired Persons meeting last
year:"If we do not act, interest payouts will spiral upward until
they consume not only Social Security, but also health care,
education, transportation investments...."
Senator Simon warns: "A rising tide of red ink sinks all
Even opponents of the amendment agree that there is a deepening
problem with the national debt. The numbers appall both taxpayers
For example, in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president,
the total debt owed by the federal government was $909 billion - or
$4,012 for every man, woman, and child in the US.
By this week, federal officials say the debt had risen to $4.834
trillion - or $18,636.02 for every American. A family of four owes,
through its federal government, $74,544.08 to creditors.
Like any debtor, American taxpayers now find their obligations
coming due. …