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Our Century's Civil Rights Issue: The Balanced Budget Amendment

Compact for America's recent testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee emphasized that the Compact's Balanced Budget Amendment presented a civil rights issue. Future generations are being forced to pay the bill for our policy choices. This denies them the right to self-governance. That's a civil rights issue. So Congress was urged to treat the issue the same way as past amendments that protected the right to self-governance.

In fact, the Constitution has been amended five times to protect the right of self-governance in our political system.

  • The Twenty-Third Amendment assigned electors to Washington, DC, allowing it to participate in the Electoral College and effectively giving residents the right to vote for the President.

These amendments recognized the systemic flaw of denying representation on the basis of race, gender, DC residency, inability to pay a poll tax, and age (when you're old enough to fight and die for your country). Why? Because the people best able to protect their rights are those whose rights are at stake. Protecting civil rights requires self-governance.

But what about future voters? What about those who are going to be burdened with our $20 trillion and growing national debt; whose policy options are going to be limited by the $200 trillion in unfunded promises made on the basis of limitless federal borrowing; whose income and wealth will be seized by taxation compelled by decisions made long ago without their input?

The fiscal calamity we are delivering to our kids and future generations will deprive them of their right to self-governance just as assuredly as did the poll tax and age, race and gender-based voting restrictions deny civil rights to so many other groups. They face the same systemic flaw - a political system that impacts them in fundamental and permanent ways without their input; a political system in which citizens are forced to rely entirely on the good will of current voters to protect their interests. Given our nation's history of fixing systemic failures of self-governance, it is not justifiable to do nothing in the face of this injustice.

Our Constitution was designed from the perspective of embedding governance principles that could last for an eternity. The rights of future generations are properly relevant to its design. But there is no time machine to transport future voters to present day voting booths. No amendment can protect the right of self-governance for future voters in the same way that previously excluded groups have been protected. Fortunately, there is a proxy: the Balanced Budget Compact's Balanced Budget Amendment.

By limiting federal borrowing capacity, the Amendment would stop representatives of current voters from endlessly sending the bill for their policy choices to our kids and future generations. It would end unlimited taxation without representation. It would protect the policy options of future voters from being limited by a mortgage they never signed.

In short, the Compact's Balanced Budget Amendment would do nothing less than protect the right of our kids and future generations to self-governance. That right will not meaningfully exist if our $20 trillion national debt and $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities continue to grow exponentially. For this reason, the Compact's Balanced Budget Amendment is clearly a civil rights issue - and advancing the Congressional resolution needed to activate the Balanced Budget Compact (HCR73) is our century's civil rights movement.

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