Should the US Constitution Be Amended to Limit Borrowing From the Future?

August 13, 2021 Updated: August 16, 2021

Commentary

The U.S. national debt is at a staggering $28.6 trillion, which is $227,474 on each of us taxpayers, according to USDebtClock.org. The recent federal infrastructure bill adds $256 billion to the deficit over 10 years. Education standards are diminishing, and governments are loosening laws around petty crimes, to name a few indicators of portending trouble. Short-term measures and appeasement are increasingly gaining popularity at the cost of future prosperity.

Every such measure must be seen as a debt that will need to be paid back in the future. For our progeny to sustain themselves and flourish, there probably should be legal provisions that limit governments from borrowing from the future, be it by way of direct debt, environmental impact, or any other direct or indirect maneuver.

Appeasement that is done by politicians with an eye on the elections should be considered corruption. It amounts to bribing the electorate. Currently, it is a legal form of corruption, surprisingly at the highest levels of governance, and it desperately needs eradication. The unfortunate victim of appeasement in most cases is the future.

A decade or two ago, we were proud to proclaim that packages could be left in front of the doors of our homes for days without any worry about theft. Today, Nextdoor.com, a popular social media for neighborhood discussions, is full of posts about crime in neighborhoods.

I see broken glass from cars’ windshields lying along the sidewalk all the time when I take a walk in the neighborhood. As president of the board of directors of our homeowners association, I have received complaints from neighbors about how their cars were broken into. At this time, it is quite likely that the police department headcount outnumbers that of the criminals in a locality. Why, then, is the crime rate shooting up by the day?

Values, human or material, have a propensity to fall and eventually crash. Governments need to actively uphold the values rather than give in to their free fall.

A dollar could buy a lot of things a couple of decades ago. The value of the currency continues to fall because of inflation and other factors. Just as governments need to take measures to control inflation and arrest the free fall of the dollar, there is a responsibility on them to uphold human dignity and values as well.

The family is a unit of civilization and must be upheld to the extent possible. Thanks to modern-day “family law,” breaking families is today just a matter of filing a few papers in the court. The price for the individual liberties of parents is being paid by their children.

As a country, we are worried about homelessness. It is just a symptom. We should address the root causes. We must evaluate whether these root causes include misguided upbringing resulting from broken families, corporate greed driving extreme income inequalities, or stressful work environments leading to mental health problems.

There are homeless camps in the area where I live. Homelessness puts not only the homeless but also the people near them in danger, particularly during the pandemic as we are observing now. Homeless people light bonfires, probably to keep warm in the winter. But the fires can easily get out of hand, particularly at night, and endanger thousands of lives and homes in the neighborhood.

We represented the issues to the city of San Jose multiple times but haven’t been successful in getting a resolution.

Today’s pay disparities are too striking to be ignored as a cause for homelessness and a stressful work environment caused by greed. Rewards should indeed be based on merit and contributions, but the income gaps raise a few questions.

While governments all over the world are promulgating socialistic ideals which impact the middle class, why are they silent about this glaring disparity even in troubled times?

Another possible reason for homelessness is the absence of the concept of savings for the future. Consumerism is a cornerstone of the U.S. economy. There is more focus on spending than on saving.

Given the growing number of uncertainties, families must be encouraged to save for the future. It is a vicious cycle—lack of planning for the future leads to uncertainties, and uncertainties penalize lack of planning even more.

The only way to break that cycle is to foster a sense of saving for the future. Families need savings to pay for rent, mortgage, college fees, and other expenses when the job market is not in their favor.

A significant reason for all or most of the above troubles is the short-sighted focus of our governance. The legal framework does not pay enough attention to the future.

For instance, family law and support calculations are entirely based on present income and expenses and put the average provider at the brink of decent existence. Common wisdom tells us that the provider’s wellbeing is of utmost importance for the sustenance of those provided for, and a portion of the earnings must be used as savings for future needs such as children’s college education. The law completely misses this common wisdom.

It is essential that there be provisions in the Constitution to limit governments from passing laws that hurt the future. Every bill must include language that details the impact on the near and far future of all those impacted before it becomes a law. Laws that can have an adverse impact in the long term must be allowed to pass only with a two-thirds majority in the legislature.

There is also a need to repeal or amend existing laws that do not do enough or even encourage degradation of human dignity and values. A constitutional amendment is needed to enforce the measures in the future as well.

In summary, it is high time that we pondered: Should depriving our progeny of their due share be made ultra vires?

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Vishnu Pendyala
Vishnu Pendyala
Vishnu S. Pendyala, Ph.D., teaches machine learning and other data science courses at San Jose State University. He is an ACM distinguished speaker, book author, and has over two decades of experience in the software industry.