Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The National Debt and Generational Responsibility

I've been thinking about the national debt.  It occurs to me that each time we increase the limit, we are borrowing that money from some future generation, saddling them with our problems.  I came up with a rough solution to this travesty.

We could implement a constitutional amendment does the following:
Any increase in the national debt limit is hereby tied to a flat increase in all brackets of the income tax. 
  1. This increase in taxes is the rate at which the increase in the national debt will be paid off in 4 years.
  2. This new tax revenue cannot be used for any other spending or appropriation - the funds may not be raided by any agency, and must be used to pay down the debt.
An amendment such as this would ensure that any new debt added must accompanied by a tax that is paid towards the debt every year.  This ensures each generation pays for its own borrowing rather than kicking the can to their children or grand children.

Not that I like taxes, but at least if they were constituionally tethered there would be a "built in plan" to prevent the national debt from getting out of control.  I am not silly enough to think this payment guaranty would work - I am sure that politicians will screw it up - however this would ensure every American would feel the bite of borrowing, and my guess is that they would be up in arms about it. Maybe, just maybe, this would keep down the excessive borrowing and spending.

Again, this is very rough, but I am happy to hear your thoughts.

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
- Thomas Jefferson


  1. You would give free reign to tax and spend bureaucrats who can spend wildly (as they have been doing) and since the tax increases would be automatic they wouldn't be held accountable.

    1. Thanks for your comment JTL. The fact is, they are unaccountable right now - they borrow and spend, and the citizens are blind to it because they don't feel the pain. Their kids and grandkids will, though. The entire point of this idea is not to solve the debt problem, but to shock the populace into seeing what is going on.

      When the people feel the pain, they will hold the politicians accountable, or the system will simply fall apart faster. Hopefully to be replaced by something better.

  2. How about this idea:
    1. A Balanced Budget Amendment that requires a balanced budget submitted and approved prior to Christmas break, that is limited by CBO projected revenue. Add a clause that states failure to submit a budget within the constrants of these two amendments is a FELONY.
    2. A National Debt Amendment that requires the first Budget line item be 10% of revenue to pay down national debt, not withstanding the balance of the budget must still be limited to the remaining revenue.
    3. A Term Limit Amendment that limits any person to no more than 2 terms in one office, and no more than 4 terms in any combination of offices.

    1. JTL, I love the idea of a balanced budget amendment, though I suggest we base our revenue projection on historical fact, rather than CBO estimates. Using estimates would invite the corruption of the CBO and their numbers.

      We're definitely thinking similarly though. I wrote up a balanced budget amendment last year: http://legendarykotetu.blogspot.com/2011/11/amend-constitution.html

      Here are my other amendment ideas:

      I also agree with a term limit amendment.

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