Washington can learn from states' fiscal management

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Whether running a business or simply managing your household expenses, you've likely faced some challenging financial decisions. Managing money is a routine responsibility for most Americans, and often it comes down to a simple equation: Don't spend more than you can afford.

This concept of living within your means is not new to Iowans, whose average household credit card debt is the lowest in the nation. We set budgets and we stick to them. Sometimes, especially in an uncertain economy, this means making difficult choices, but we understand that good fiscal discipline today means greater flexibility tomorrow.

Staying within our financial means is a concept that governments should adopt as stewards of our tax dollars. In many states, like Iowa and Georgia, they already have. In fact, nearly every state has some sort of balanced budget requirement.

Unfortunately, Washington is a far different story.

In each of the last seven years, the federal government has spent hundreds of billions, even trillions more than it took in. The national debt has ballooned past $19.6 trillion and we have more than $100 trillion in future unfunded liabilities. As a result, every American family is responsible for almost $1 million of the debt. It's only getting worse: The national debt is projected to rise to nearly $30 trillion over the next decade.

President Obama's budgets ignored fiscally responsible principles, instead leaving an ever-growing mountain of debt for taxpayers down the road. This means that those of us who have already made difficult budgetary decisions in our families or businesses will have to shoulder the additional burden from a government that refused to do the same. As the debt burden increases, so does the interest we owe, and more tax dollars spent on interest means fewer dollars for vital government services.

Thanks in part to the failed economic policies of the last seven years, we are past the tipping point of a national debt crisis.

Our national debt and deficit spending harm our economy when job creators are forced to pay higher taxes instead of hiring new employees. They harm opportunities for our children and grandchildren, who will be saddled with the challenge of paying for our generation's lack of fiscal discipline. And they harm our national security by jeopardizing our ability to respond to threats around the world, while simultaneously making us increasingly beholden to foreign nations, like China, that are financing our spending habits.

We must take decisive action to solve the crisis and end the federal government's spending addiction. Our economy, our security and our future prosperity depend on it. That's why we support adding a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

A balanced budget amendment simply requires the federal government to adopt the same fiscal philosophy shared by many families and businesses across Iowa, Georgia and all of America. It would set a standard of preventing the government from spending more than it takes in, requiring Congress and the president to make tough choices and set priorities.

A willingness to make tough choices and to operate with a sense of urgency about national priorities are each required to bring us back from the fiscal brink. A balanced budget amendment ensures both.

Balancing the budget is just the first step to solving the national debt crisis, and more must be done to reinvent the way Washington funds the federal government.

Amending the Constitution should never be taken lightly, but our nation's historic debt calls for an historic response.

For years, states from coast to coast and from across the political spectrum have thrived under a balanced budget framework. Washington can learn from this proven strategy.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a cosponsor of the proposed balanced budget amendment. Sen. David Perdue (R-Georgia) serves on the Budget, Foreign Relations, Agriculture and Judiciary Committees.