The pity is that a balanced budget could be within reach. If lawmakers would return to the level of spending they maintained throughout the 1980s and ’90s ($21,000 per household, adjusted for inflation) we could balance the budget by 2012 without raising taxes.
Doing this would require discipline, of course. That’s why lawmakers should pass a strong Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. TABOR, as it’s known, would help curb spending by limiting the growth of federal spending to the inflation rate plus population growth. That would save taxpayers trillions of dollars in the years ahead.
Of course, lawmakers would always be tempted to violate the TABOR limits. They already get around self-imposed spending limits by declaring any extra spending to be “emergency” spending, even if it’s for perfectly predictable events such as the census. So to give TABOR teeth, it should require a supermajority -- two thirds -- of lawmakers to override the automatic spending limits. That should limit congressional spending shenanigans.
In these difficult times, with everyone cutting back, Americans ought to expect their government to do so, as well. With a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, our government can reduce spending, balance its budget and start encouraging growth again. It’s an idea that’s long overdue.