Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Balanced Budget Amendment Distraction

As the irrational shrieking over the proposed debt ceiling intensifies, so has the whisper campaign for a "Balanced Budget Amendment" increased in volume. The problem is that any "Balanced Budget Amendment" won't be worth the paper it is printed on.

I responded in the Washington Post opinion piece "Cantor won’t sign ‘Cut, Cap, Balance’ pledge" by Felicia Sonmez that: "The concept of the "Balanced Budget Amendment" is being floated as a distraction from solving the debt limit now. It will allow our Congress people to further avoid making a decision and to continue to kick-the-can down the road. Don't fall for this misleading rhetoric.

Why would a "Balanced Budget Amendment" be dead-on-arrival? The most obvious example relates to the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is a defacto balanced budget amendment. So Congress could balance the budget now if it wanted too. If they do not have the will now to balance the budget, why would they magically have that will in the future?

Any so-called "Balanced Budget Amendment" would have an "escape" clause for unforeseen circumstances, like Hurricane Katrina. It won't take Congress long to begin using the "escape" clause to start passing budgets proposing deficit spending. Congress people, as a hobby, like to manufacturer crises so they can get face time and propose "fake" solutions to impress their constitutions.

Just think of the implications of Eric Cantor's statement "I don’t want to sign a pledge that conditions my vote on what the Democrats may or may not do". I imagine that there are Democrats with the same sentiment. A "Balanced Budget Amendment" will simply be meaningless showpiece legislation dead-on-arrival to fool the American Public. Getting on the "Balanced Budget Amendment" band wagon will be a fools errand.

FauxReal was kind enough to respond that others have been writing concerning this too and provided a link to "Dopiest Constitutional Amendment of All Time?" by Bruce Bartlett. Mr. Bartlett has links in his post that are worth following-up on.  In particular to the actual Joint Resolution S. J. RES 10.   Mr. Bartlett concludes "In short, this is quite possibly the stupidest constitutional amendment I think I have ever seen. It looks like it was drafted by a couple of interns on the back of a napkin. Every senator cosponsoring this POS should be ashamed of themselves."

Good to see that my hypothesized escape clause in the draft amendment appears in Section 5: ‘‘The limit on the debt of the United States shall not be increased, unless three-fifths of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress shall provide for such an increase by a roll call vote."

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