This is an archived article that was published on in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Recently, the right's mantra has been that the federal government should live within its means — just "just like American families do." It's a great sound bite. It's also absurdly intellectually dishonest.

Sen. Orrin Hatch supports amending the Constitution to require the federal government to have a balanced budget. The only exceptions: war and a two-thirds vote of Congress.

So how does this compare to the average American family? What are those credit cards that fill our wallets? Are they paid off every Dec. 31? And how about that mortgage or college loan? Are we "mortgaging our grandchildren's future" with them? If these things are not paid in full every year, are families truly balancing their budgets?

Economists now almost universally agree that in economic downturns, government spending is part of the solution, not part of the problem. In good times, certainly we should replenish our coffers (not just cut taxes). In bad, we should spend responsibly and as necessary.

As I recall, a fledgling nation once borrowed money from the French to wage war against the English. Had it not, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. It is the conversation that needs balance, not the budget.

Joshua S. Kanter

Salt Lake City