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The National Debt: A Constitutional Crisis

By Judge Roy Moore

Imagine a world in which you could avoid paying your credit card debt simply by raising your own credit limit each time the bill became due. Then one day you suddenly realize that it would take one-fifth of all your spending just to pay the interest on that debt, and that retirement of the debt would be virtually impossible.

Although this scenario may sound extreme, our nation is in exactly that situation.

Our gross federal debt now stands at approximately $20 trillion, up from just $5.7 trillion the day President Bush took office in 2001. According to the Congressional Budget Office, interest on the national debt will explode from seven percent to 21 percent of all federal spending by 2047, leaving our children and grandchildren hopelessly drowning in insurmountable debt.

Congress has increased the nation’s debt limit 16 times during the tenures of the last two presidents — without regard for the consequences.

The cruel irony is that all but three of those increases have taken place while Republicans have held a majority in one or both houses of Congress. Annual deficits jumped to an average of $500 billion a year under President Bush and leapt further to an average of $1 trillion a year under President Obama.

Our Founding Fathers understood the immorality of foisting debt upon future generations. In his Farewell Address, George Washington urged that we must avoid “the accumulation of debt not only by shunning occasions of expense but by vigorous exertions … to discharge the debts … not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.” He solemnly warned that as a “very important source of strength and security,” we should “cherish public credit.”

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During our formative years, we did avoid accumulation of debt in all but the most extenuating circumstances. Nevertheless, after World War II our indebtedness began to rise. Today, our politicians seem callous to the continuous accumulation of debt. They seem to regard their oath under God to uphold the Constitution as a formality instead of a sacred bond. While promising to curb spending, they quickly turn to pass bailouts for private industries, foreign aid defined as nation-building, stimulus funding and other social policies over which they have no jurisdiction under Article I, § 8 of the Constitution.

Unless we return to the fundamental principles of government, we will never achieve the greatness we deserve.

As stated by James Madison, the chief architect of our Constitution, in Federalist 45, the federal government’s powers are “few and defined … exercised principally on external objectives as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce.” He added that the powers of state governments, in contrast, are “numerous and indefinite,” and “extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people.”

Simply stated, if the federal government retired from the field of social policy and concentrated on its role under the Constitution, it would then find the necessary resources to fulfill its responsibilities without bankrupting the nation.

Unless we return to fundamental principles of fiscal responsibility, we will go the way of Greece or Venezuela.

One of the biggest sources of our national debt is the healthcare system. Prior to the Obama administration, the federal government had left the health care system largely in the hands of the states and the people. We must repeal Obamacare immediately, allowing sufficient time for individuals to obtain health insurance in the free-enterprise market system. In tandem with such repeal, Congress should also repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 that has been used in many states to limit access to a competitive market in health insurance. Free market competition will lead to lower costs, higher quality and more efficient services that will not burden our national debt.

Our Constitution was designed to allow the states, through strong families and thriving communities, to do great things — free from excessive regulations, high taxation and crony capitalist market distortions by the federal government. Only by a return to the Constitution and faith in Almighty God will we once again be “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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Judge Roy Moore is the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and a current candidate for United States Senate from Alabama.

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