Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt,” said former president Herbert Hoover in an address to the Nebraska Republican Convention in 1936. As a young person in 2017, I feel very blessed.
Since February 2017, the federal deficit has grown by more than $500 billion, to over $20 trillion. The average debt owed per person is now estimated to be greater than $62,000, and the debt is expected to increase in the coming years, with the Congressional Budget Office predicting debt held by the public will rise to $25 trillion, or 89% of U.S. gross domestic product, by 2017.
Millennials and other young people will surely be saddled with fixing this growing crisis, even though baby boomers are the ones most responsible for creating the current dire situation.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to young people that older generations are leaving them stuck with the bill. Baby boomers vote at a much higher rate than millennials, and despite the fact millennials’ population growth has, according to Pew, “surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living population,” millennials are the least represented in all levels of government. The average age of a U.S. congressman is 57 years old. The average age of a U.S. senator is 61. State lawmakers aren’t much better; their average age is 56.
Politicians continue to vote for government programs they know the government can’t afford, because, as David Frum in Newsweek noted, “it’s almost always easier to shift the costs of an aging society onto other groups.” It’s especially easy when older Americans are the ones who typically show up in greater numbers at town halls, legislative offices, campaign fundraisers, and virtually every other democratic participatory activity, protesting and social media excluded.
Young people shouldn’t feel doomed, though. They can make an impact on the federal deficit and demand fiscal responsibility when state legislative sessions begin in January 2018. How? By demanding states rein in Washington, D.C.’s out-of-control spending using Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
Under Article V, states can propose constitutional amendments, including a balanced-budget amendment, once two-thirds (34) of the state legislatures submit applications calling for a convention. After a convention is called, states, without Congress, can pass amendments to the Constitution, which will then need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38) to become law.
In recent years, several grass-roots groups have been on the forefront of the movement to enact a balanced-budget amendment, which would demand the federal government stop running up massive deficits year after year. For instance, the Balanced Budget Task Force of America(BBTFA) is calling for an Article V convention for the purpose of enacting a single-item balanced-budget amendment. Twenty-seven states currently have active BBTFA applications.
The Convention of States proposes using Article V to go beyond a balanced-budget, including language in its proposal that would impose term limits on members of Congress and limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. It currently has 12 active applications approved by state legislatures.
The proposal offered by the Compact for a Balanced Budget (CBB) would streamline the amendment process, condensing 38 state submissions into a single enactment. Five states have signed CBB resolutions.
Through active participation and engagement with state lawmakers and the Article V movement, young people can positively influence the future of America and its economic solvency. After all, as another former president, James Madison, said more than a century before Hoover’s aforementioned quote, “a public debt is a public curse,” and it is millennials who have been handed this ill fate.
[Originally Published at Investor’s Business Daily]