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The Nation's Cry for Generational Responsibility

Below are comments made by former Sen. Paul Tsongas at a Senate hearing Jan. 5 in support of a proposed amendment that would force Congress to balance the national budget:

THE balanced budget amendment is not a thing of beauty. It is an overdue act of contrition by a generation that has compromised the future of its own children. It is a quest for redemption by elected officials of both parties who have unfailingly placed their own reelection above the sacredness of their generational responsibility.

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It is a sorry and undignified awareness that our political leaders need the imposition of discipline from without.

It is 26 consecutive years of unbalanced budgets and bipartisan irresponsibility. It is deficit spending considered to be as American as apple pie. It is pandering to the greedy self-interest of the American voters while dismissing the notion they are capable of great economic patriotism. Most importantly, it presumes that the parent-child bond is weaker than the instinct to enhance self.

And it continues today.

Do we have a Democratic president who will forgo the siren calls of middle-class tax cuts and more defense spending while taking up his sword to battle for entitlement reforms? The answer is no.

Well, then, do we have a Republican Speaker of the House who will step into the breach on behalf of our young? The answer is no again.

Generational morality does not live in this city. And in 20 years every penny of tax revenue will go to only two places -- interest on the enormous national debt and entitlement programs. Nothing else.

That is the road that we are on.

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The leadership to take a more noble and difficult path does not exist. There is no purpose to our current journey beyond the reelection of that leadership.

The nation yearns for moral authority for principled renewal. It yearns to be called to ''a higher purpose'' in behalf of the children it has nurtured. It waits in vain.

The balanced-budget amendment is a cry for generational responsibility. It is all we can deploy to protect those that we have created.

There should have been a better way. There wasn't. There won't be.

So let us get on with the amendment. Let us take the path of economic prosperity and generational sacredness. Now is the moment.

Let it be done.

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