You know something serious is up when you see an article that carries the joint by line of Senator Jim DeMint, perhaps the most conservative Republican member of the Senate, and Senator Olympia Snowe, perhaps the most liberal Republican in the Senate. So what unites this odd couple?    

They both know that catastrophic spending by the federal government has reached a tipping point. We’re on the brink of disaster. The odd couple also knows that the Congress has little will to stop it. Therefore the senators write:

Republicans in the Senate are united in our concern about our nation’s fiscal future. Before we consider saddling our children with even more debt, we must enact significant spending cuts and enforceable caps on future spending. For the long term, to prevent both this Congress and its successors from hijacking the promise of American prosperity, we also need a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, like the one we and all 47 Senate Republicans have introduced.

The American people who will vote on such an amendment understand the basic financial rules that Washington has been breaking. In the real world, if a household brought in $44,000 annually but spent $74,000 by borrowing $30,000 each year to sustain its spending habits, such behavior would be considered reckless and irresponsible.

Nonetheless, the federal government is doing exactly that on an unimaginable scale, running historic deficits in excess of a trillion dollars for three consecutive years and borrowing 40 cents for every dollar spent. Our government has balanced its budget only five times in half a century.   …

The last time the Senate considered a balanced budget amendment was on March 4, 1997-and it failed to pass by one vote. On that day 14 years ago, the nation’s outstanding debt was $5.36 trillion. Today it is $14.3 trillion, or nearly three times that amount.

In the Constitution, our forefathers established a brilliant blueprint that has withstood the test of time and become a beacon for others to follow. What the Founders did not anticipate was that a nation built upon the premise of individual freedom would become shackled by a government of chronic debtors.

The notion of a balanced budget amendment has been kicking around for some time. I have a built-in opposition to proposing amendments to the Constitution under normal conditions. But I am coming around to the notion that a balanced budget amendment may be our only hope. It might be that things are finally dire enough and there is enough anger in the country to get one passed and ratified. What such an amendment would do is tell Congress it can’t go on saddling us with the debt for programs a lot of us don’t even want in the first place.