On Monday, the federal debt reached its statutory limit—more than $14 trillion dollars. The American people know carrying debt larger than our entire economy is unsustainable. A January Reuters/Ipsos poll revealed that 71 percent of Americans opposed raising the nation’s debt limit. But the effort to hold the line has been trusted to the wrong people. Keeping the debate in Washington, D.C. is like having an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at the local bar during happy hour. To stop the federal debt binge, the debate needs take place outside of Washington. Only the National Debt Relief Amendment (NDRA) offers that possibility.
The NDRA is a simple yet powerful 18-word amendment. It reads: “An increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the legislatures of the separate States.” If it were law, advocates of lifting the debt limit would have to make their case in 50 state legislatures. The federal government would have to prepare accurate budgets and anticipate truly necessary debt increases well in advance. And with more deliberation throughout the country, the NDRA would increase the chances of Congress developing better fiscal policies with a wider consensus.
How do we get this done? Fortunately, Article V of the U.S. Constitution empowers states to apply for a convention to propose the NDRA for ratification. The North Dakota legislature has already passed just such an application. When 34 states pass the application, Congress must either call the convention or, feeling mounting political pressure, propose the NDRA itself. Such pressure cannot come too soon. We have a moral obligation to address the debt crisis. And that means bypassing Washington, D.C. with a real reform like the NDRA.
Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.
Goldwater Institute: Article V convention resources
RestoringFreedom.org: National Debt Relief Amendment
NewsMax: Reuters/Ipsos poll on the Debt Limit