FLORIDA SEN. MARCO RUBIO, in the Republican response: ‘‘The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending $1 trillion dollar more than it takes in every year. That’s why we need a balanced-budget amendment.’’
THE FACTS: That statement may reflect the math behind recent debt, but it doesn’t get directly to the cause — the worst recession since the Depression and its aftereffects. The deficit is not only caused by spending, but by reduced tax revenues. And during the recession, revenues from both individual and corporate taxes fell markedly.
The steep increases in debt and the measures that should be taken to ease the burden are central to the debate in Washington. But there is no serious move afoot to amend the Constitution to prohibit deficit spending.
The ability to take on debt has been used by governments worldwide and through U.S. history to shelter people from the ravages of a down economy, wage war and achieve many other ends. An effort to amend the Constitution for any purpose faces daunting odds; this would be no exception. Most state constitutions demand a balanced budget, but states lack some big obligations of the federal government, including national defense. And Washington’s ability to go deeper into debt provides states with at least a minimal safety net in times of high unemployment.
Associated Press writers Tom Raum, Dina Cappiello, Andrew Taylor and Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE _ An occasional look at political claims that take shortcuts with the facts or don’t tell the full story