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CHOCOLA: Balanced budget: A Sisyphean task

Constitutional amendment would ease the uphill fiscal struggle

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Sisyphus, a king in Greek mythology, was punished by the gods by being forced to roll a boulder up a hill over and over again. No matter how high he got, the boulder would slip through his fingers and roll back to the bottom of the hill. Poor Sisyphus was doomed to keep repeating this task for eternity.

For decades, the American people have felt like Sisyphus, bearing the burden of a boulder that is ever-larger spending and debt. Poor Sisyphus could never make it up the hill because of the rules the gods had made for him. But what if the gods had changed the rules? What if they shrank the boulder? What if they allowed poor Sisyphus finally to push the boulder over the top?

In Washington, the politicians are like the gods who created the rules by which Sisyphus lived. Their rules make it impossible for Americans to get out from mountains of debt, just as Sisyphus could not cease pushing his boulder. Right now, the proposed solution to the growing debt burden on Americans is a one-time cut in federal spending and then a raising of the federal debt ceiling. That is equivalent to simply telling Sisyphus to "try harder this time."

A balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution (BBA) is the rule change Americans need. A BBA would cause the stock market to take off, open up credit, encourage investment and restore the American economy to greatness. The Club for Growth supports the BBA proposed by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois. Their BBA caps spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product and requires supermajorities in both the House and the Senate in order to raise taxes, spending and the debt limit. It is, in short, the change we need that finally would allow Americans to end the cycle of spending and debt caused by a government that is simply too big.

A BBA to the Constitution has been embraced by the Senate but not by the House. We have a historic opportunity to change the spendthrift ways of Washington by rewriting the rule book, and organizations such as the Club for Growth intend to pressure Speaker John A. Boehner and the Republican leadership to embrace it.

If we were able to get two-thirds of the vote in both houses of Congress, the BBA easily could pick up enough momentum to be ratified by the states. The Republican Party controls the governorship and both houses of the state legislature in 22 states. Four more states have Republican governors with split legislatures. States like Kentucky and Missouri that are more conservative by nature add seven more to our total, giving the BBA 33 states - and enough momentum to inspire five more to make it happen, especially after the stock market takes off and Standard & Poor's upgrades our debt forecast once again. Like a heavy boulder rolling down a hill, it would be impossible to stop.

If someone changed the rules to help Sisyphus, he easily would get the boulder over the hill. If politicians change the rules by passing the BBA, it will be possible for us to cut spending and shrink the debt. Politicians in Washington rarely do the heavy lifting unless they are forced to do it. They need to be forced by the American people to embrace these new changes. Sisyphus never had standing to fight with the gods, but the beauty of American democracy is that there is little difference between the politicians and ordinary men.

Chris Chocola, a former Indiana congressman, is president of the Club for Growth.

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