The economic issue of our generation is the national debt.
According to usdebtclock.org, at the writing of this column, the United States has a national debt exceeding $17.5 trillion. That means each citizen owes more than $55,000 toward the national debt and each taxpayer owes more than $152,000.
That is unbelievable!
Yet, even with our national debt out of control, our federal government continues to spend more money than it takes in. It continues to operate without a balanced budget.
Everywhere I have participated in a budget — my home, my business, the city of Pooler and the state of Georgia — we have operated under a balanced budget. Yet our federal government simply keeps spending more money than it takes in, going further into debt.
Recognizing that this madness must stop, many states, including Georgia, have proposed calling a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution in order to adopt a balanced budget amendment. This would force the federal government to adopt a balanced budget each year and would stop deficit spending that has created this enormous debt.
However, amending the U.S. Constitution is a very difficult process and can only be done in two ways.
The first way is to have a two-thirds vote of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, with a ratification of three-fourths (38) of the state legislatures.
The second way is through a constitutional convention called by two-thirds (34) of the state legislatures, where an amendment would be proposed and later have to be approved by three-fourths of the state legislatures.
For the 27 amendments to the Constitution that have been adopted thus far, only the first method has been used.
During this past legislative session in Georgia, seven bills were passed dealing with a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
While I voted for all of these bills, three of them originated in the Senate, and I was proud to cosponsor these bills.
And while I liked all of these bills, SR 371 and SB 206 were of particular interest because I was the second signer and helped to author them.
SR 371 is a resolution requesting that Congress call a convention for proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution with limited consideration of only proposing a balanced budget in the absence of a national emergency.
SB 206 addresses the appointment, eligibility and responsibility of the delegates responding to the call for a constitutional convention.
It codifies who will appoint the delegates, with the governor, speaker and lieutenant governor each having two appointments and the seventh being appointed by the affirmative vote of four of the six delegates.
Delegates must be at least 21 years old and not convicted of a felony.
Finally, and most importantly, it requires the delegates to take an oath that he or she will not vote to allow consideration of, or to approve, any other amendment besides the balanced budget amendment.
The reason SB 206 is so important is to address the concern of many citizens that if a constitutional convention were to be called, it could result in a runaway convention where delegates would make other changes to the constitution.
Over the years, some amendments that have been proposed by Congress, such as renaming this nation to the “United States of Earth” and abolishing the U.S. Army and Navy, thankfully never have been ratified.
Others, unfortunately, were not ratified, such as setting the income tax maximum for an individual not to exceed 25 percent.
Nevertheless, concerns of a runaway convention are adequately addressed by SB 206.
While it certainly is sad commentary that an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring a balanced budget is necessary in order to force Congress to get its financial affairs in order, it appears to be the only way it will get done.
The Georgia Legislature certainly is on board.
Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109.