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  • Morning Bell: The Fight for the Balanced Budget Amendment

    Washington remains embroiled in debt limit negotiations as Republicans and Democrats stand apart on how to best go about increasing the amount of money the government can borrow and spend. But on the sidelines, another debate simmers over one amendment to the U.S. Constitution that could have averted today’s spending debacle: the balanced budget amendment (BBA).

    At its core, the BBA would mandate that Congress not spend more than its income–a notion that would truly be a radical departure from today’s course of business in the nation’s capital, where the national debt could eventually reach a staggering 344 percent of GDP by mid-century.

    You might think that putting constitutional limits on Congress’s ability to borrow and spend beyond its means is an idea whose time has come. If so, you’d be in good company. In 1798, Thomas Jefferson, the great author of America, wrote that he longed for such a constraint:

    I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government; I mean an additional article taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing.

    It’s an idea that has surfaced time and time again over our nation’s history, as former Congressman Ernest Istook writes in a new paper. The BBA was first proposed in 1936; it re-emerged in 1982 and again in the Republican revolution of the 1990s, when it was a central piece of the Contract with America. But, as Istook notes, the BBA drew sharp attacks from liberals who took issue with the limits it would impose on government:

    The BBA is a powerful proposal that attracts great vitriol from the American Left, which recognizes it as an enormous threat to its big-government ways—perhaps the greatest threat. For that reason, the history of Congress’s work on a BBA is full of frustrations, high-profile defections, reversals, and betrayals.

    The BBA has resurfaced again with this Congress, and Republicans in the House and Senate have announced that they will force votes on balanced budget constitutional amendments. If the Senate and House were to pass identical versions of a BBA, the constitutional amendment would then be sent to the states for ratification.

    However, as they stand right now, though the Senate and House versions of the current BBA are similar, there are some important differences, as Heritage’s Brian Darling explains in a new report.

    The provisions that vary between the House and Senate versions of the BBA may have dramatic policy implications for federal spending.  One consistency in the two versions that is a departure from the Contract with America version of the BBA is a cap on federal spending.  Both the Senate and House versions have a similar mechanism for capping spending at 18 percent of the economic output of the United States.  This new idea would constrict the size of government.

    The two versions of the BBA diverge significantly on such threshold questions as how each amendment’s provisions apply during times of “military conflict” and the number of votes required to waive the constitutional mandate that the budget be balanced during a fiscal year.  Basically, the House version, that may be changed, allows for unlimited spending during “military conflicts” with a majority of House and Senate votes.  The Senate version specifies the exact amount for the “military conflict” and requires both chambers to pass an unbalanced budget with a two-thirds vote.

    The Senate version makes it more difficult to raise taxes, yet the language is crafted in a manner that may hamper efforts for revenue neutral tax reform.

    Also under consideration is something called the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, which would condition an increased debt limit on the House and Senate passage of the BBA.  This vote might sideline the expected debate on the BBA in the House next week.  The value of this approach is that, unlike the BBA requiring a two-thirds vote of each chamber, the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act requires only a simple majority vote to pass the House.  If this measure passes, it would then be sent to the Senate for consideration.

    It is indeed good news that Congress is debating measures to cap fed spending, make it harder to raise taxes, and force the federal government to balance the budget. States do it, families do it, and Congress should do it.  But Congress shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. By all accounts, this new and improved BBA is strong and would forward the goals of limiting the size of government.

    Quick Hits:

    • After five days of meetings with congressional leaders over the debt limit–and calls for some Members of Congress to be shut out of the closed-door talks–President Obama is holding another press conference this morning on the negotiations.
    • The United States is granting Libyan rebel leaders full diplomatic recognition as the governing authority of Libya, paving the way for the rebel council to receive more than $30 billion in frozen U.S. assets.
    • The Pentagon announced yesterday that in the spring, it suffered one of its largest losses ever of sensitive data in a cyber attack by a foreign government.
    • Osama bin Laden was working on putting together a team of terrorists to attack the United States on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, according to information obtained from his Pakistani hideout.
    • LIVE CHAT: Join former Congressman Ernest Istook for a Web chat on the debt limit today from 12 pm to 1 pm ET on Foundry.org.
    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    64 Responses to Morning Bell: The Fight for the Balanced Budget Amendment

    1. Fred De Sena says:


    2. Fred De Sena says:

      Let It Be

    3. Florida Jim says:

      Obama and the democrats have learned the Alinsky Method of discourse with your opponent-ridicule, mock, put down, treat with disdain and they all use it daily-why not ignore them until they actually discuss issues?

    4. Ross says:

      why are the people who talk the talk of 'defending the Constitution'
      usually the one who are first in line suggesting except that we need
      to change this or that. leave the damn constitution alone just suggest
      responsible behavior. where were these people when George Bush
      was pushing for outlandish spending? we are yet to recover from that
      splurge. Ross Cannon

      • Guest says:

        Guess Bush's increasing the national debt by about 3 trillion over 8 years wasn't enough to get their attention. They thought 09-11 was worth the cost. Looks like Obama's almost 4 trillion in 2 years did though. Good thing Bush didn't spend like BO or we'd be at 26 trillion. I pity my grandchildren. Maybe they'll be ok if they learn chinese.
        Just my opinion.

      • Matthew says:

        The deficit under Bush never broke 500 billion (actually in '00 and '01 there was a surplus). In 2009 the deficit was over 1 trillion (about 1.4 trillion to be more exact). It is a much, much larger problem now.

      • azwayne says:

        Stick to facts, forget the slogans, think for yourself, yes Bush was wrong, on many things, Like all previous presidents think they are entitled to lifetime wealth, so , but our current debacle really came to life when DEMS took over congress in 2006 , that's when market went down, unemployment went up,economy started to tank. ODUMBOS stealing primary, businesses pay Attention then with bankrupting market in Sep guaranteed theft of election and business locked up money knowing it would be stolen.Did you notice or look at real figures? All Congress is responsible for the total destruction of America and economy. So let's find solution.

      • Guest says:

        Ross, I certainly agree with you. If we had responsible, Constitution minded representatives we wouldn't need any amendment to our Constitution, it would be automatic. An amendment would take years to be accomplished, if ever.

    5. Robert says:

      I do hope that the Republicans will Stand Fast on this one. A hard line needs to be drawn and if the gov't shuts down, that may be what it takes to get the idea across. We need a party that will adopt the slogan "deficit spending is evil". There is no excuse not to run this nation on a fiscally responsible basis and taxing the hell out of people to get there will ruin a good economy. Let's tax the half of our people that pay nothing and, in fact, get a lot of free stuff at the expense of the rest of us. We need to end tyranny by the majority.

    6. Robert says:

      These clowns were not able to cut spending after voting on three, separate spending resolutions – despite all of their November lies. They have not been able to cut spending during these hilarious debt ceiling negotiations. So, how does a Balanced Budget Amendment force them to do their jobs? It won't. They will simply find loopholes, and force more unfunded mandates on the states – like No Child Left Behind (the true Bush legacy). Education spending in Texas went from 41% of the state's budget to over 54% in sixteen (compassionate, "conservative," George Bush, Rick Perry) years – thanks to NCLB. Plus, we have seen property tax increases, sales tax increases and our state is broke. Yes, even with the amazing Rick Perry we have these problems and more.

    7. ActinUpinTexas says:

      Our government has for all intense purposes stopped being an overseer of the people, and instead has become a huge hammer to pound us collectively into dust. Our country, our people and our way of life as a free nation of free people has all but disappeared through manipulation and confiscation. If our debt limit is allowed to flourish and bloom… it will, as the flower on a vine eventually wilt and die. An inevitable and undeniable truth…. our government is the spoiled rotten child that not only has been given everything it wants, but has learned to take by force anything else it desires.

    8. Curt Krehbiel says:

      It is fiscal insanity to have a national debt so large that it takes 40 percent of the income (taxes) the government receives just to pay the interest. How much more benefit to the United States could be realized by being debt free?


    9. James says:

      "Deficits don't matter."
      -Dick Cheney

    10. Tim says:

      Just so you know. Conservatives are against any politition trying to spend too much. This includes the republicans of the past. We have momentum right now to really make something happen that will lock both parties into a new limitations on givernment that mean something. As it is both parties agree to way to much spending, because there are no limits. Then they come to the public with only the most urgent of the millions of things they are spending on and day we need to increase the amount government takes. Lockomg government spending to 18% of the gross national product will focus government where it needs to be focuses. On doing things that will help the gross national product grow.

    11. Tom Pritchard says:

      The Balanced Budget Amendment is a great idea but would a Democratically controlled congress ever follow it? They would probably circumvent it with a presidential executive order bypassing congress.

      • Ben C. says:

        Excellent point. You are correct. The Achilles heel in all of this is the Federal Reserve.

    12. S1mpl3m1nd says:

      What Mike fails to understand is that all of this discussion about a balanced budget and elimination of deficit spending is moot as long as we have a PRIVATE central bank. All of the money in circulation is created through a loan and there is always more money owed to the private Ferderal Reserve than is in existence. So the debt must continually increase or the whole ponzi scheme collapes. (Hopefully soon) In the quote from Jefferson, he wanted an admendment to eliminate the ability for government to yield it's constitutionally enumerated control of currency and credit to a private entity. For this was the whole genisis of the war for independence that created our country. They fought to be freed from the yoke of the Bank of England. We are under the control of the very same banking institutions that we declared our independence from in 1776!

    13. Sallie says:

      I agree that government spending must be reigned in, but I am wary of a balanced budget amendment. My understanding is that once a constitutional convention is called for the BBA amendment, it may also resurrect the Equal Rights Amendment, which fell three votes short of ratification and some belive the first 35 votes are still valid. If there is a way to limit the Constitutional Convention to one amendment, then I am all for it.

    14. Beth says:

      Can't spend what you don't have. U.S. Citizens have been asleep at the wheel for way too long or either mumbling into coffee cups and martini glasses about entitlements. etc. Now faced with the hard cold facts we are sobering up and demanding that those elected do what they were elected to do……a BBA is needed and way overdue. Do I think it will happen? Not if the spend and tax Democrats get their way….they are the party that promised 40 acres and a mule to folks during Reconstruction and ultimately passed the great social engineering of welfare, etc in the 60's. Our chickens have come home to roost and the Roosters in the hen house (Congress) have not been responsible with the hens (revenue). Congress needs to step up to the plate, the House remain strong and Sen McCollum's plan be withdrawn. Force the Democrats to face the citizens and take responsibility for a change…I would personally hate to see them do this for they would probaly win big in 2012. BBA all the way!

      • Robert says:

        Where were you when Ronnie Reagan was tripling the National debt? Where were you when George W. Bush was spending like a drunk sailor and the Debt Limit was raised 7 times in 8 years? Please stop blaming this all on the Democrats.
        We are all to blame. We should be able to cut spending, responsibly increase taxes (revenues) and still retain the flexibility to respond to economic crises without having a BBA.

    15. George says:

      We all know Aesop's fable about the ant and the grasshopper; it's a fable because over the century's it has been proven true. It appears to me that we are now at the point where there are as many or more grasshoppers as ants. Hum??? I would suggest that our politicians look long and hard at their larders and consider who will replenish them. If they make the wrong choice they will find my door locked!

    16. cathy says:

      why do we have to "fight"? why is everything a "battle"? why is our government our enemy? why do they choose power over revenue and we just accept that? why is the dollar not based on gold or silver? and why is The Fed Chairman the only person who does not know that gold and silver are real money as stated in the constitution? why can't we all just pay a small percentage of federal income tax with no loopholes, no deductions, no filing and no social engineering by congress? the poor would pay less and the rich would pay more and everyone would pay. why can't the government give everyone a catastrophic health policy at birth and if you want more, you buy more but you would never lose your house or your savings due to a catastrophic illness? just wondering?

    17. Kevin H says:

      States and families DO NOT do it. If states and families were to adopt the language in these drastic bills, no one would be able to take out a student loan or get a mortgage or get a car loan – we'd all have to pay in full with the amount we bring in. States only balanced their operating budgets, not their capital budget for projects – like building schools and bridges and roads – the capital portion of the budget does not have to be balanced. Come on Heritage – you know better than to make these wildly innacurate arguments.

      The balanced budget amendments Congress plans to vote on next week are nothing more than cowardly trojan horses. The policymakers don't make to make the cuts the bills would require, so they want to add budget process laws to the constitution to force future polisymakers to make the tough decisions – and these bills would allow a vocal minority to run the show. What happened to our democracy of minorty rule? Why do you want 25% or 33% of Congress to run the show.

    18. Ed Texas says:

      A balanced budget amendment isn't enough.The federal gov. can get around it with unfunded mandates.We must also include a provision that states be allowed to fulfill their budget obligations,before implementing unfunded mandates.And that no unfunded mandate can be implemented by raising taxes or shifting funds intended for other purposes. This includes rainy day funds such as you have in Texas. Although not purpose specific,this is clearly emergency only.
      And we must seriously persue term limits.Having lifetime politicians is like having a farm whos only purpose is to breed corruption.

    19. KC - NM says:

      Stop the spending beyond the revenue, balance the budget, and close the loop-holes in the current tax system. This is basic economics, we tax payers must do this to survive so the government needs or must do the same. The basic policy is to live within your revenue, and use credit when you know you can pay the principle back with little to no interest. The budet must be balanced – there should be no debate on this issue. Finally, fix the stupid tax system and close the tax loop-holes that benefit a few rich individuals. Better yet, kill the tax system and develop a FLAT TAX where everybody pays something, no deductions, no exceptions.
      For our wonderful professional politicians on both sides – get with the program! Get this fixed or get out – this includes Obama and his out-of-touch Czars and staff!

    20. John says:

      I am certainly in favor of our government reducing spending and working our way, as much as is possible, back to the intent of working on the balance between limited government and individual freedom and liberty but I must ask …
      The Constitution already limits the size and scope of our federal government, does it not? There are already restrictions included in our governing documents that forbid government's intrusion in areas that are not specifically spelled-out.
      For the past 130+ years, our elected representatives have not paid any attention to the Constitution while expanding the intrusiveness of government into every area and facet of American lives. Why should we think that passing an amendment limiting the spending of the federal government will make any difference? What historical precedent can we point to that gives any one the confidence that they will abide by the amendment?

    21. Bob-Sitka, AK says:

      Where extravagant appropriations can be met by a mere vote of Congress and without an immediate resort to the pockets of the people, there will be found no sufficient check to boundless prodigality, except when the government finally loses its credit by pushing it to excess. It is then that it reacts upon the people; for this great resource being exhausted, the whole superstructure of credit falls on their hands and they must bear it as best they can….it is the nature of man to spend that heedlessly which he acquires without effort and to think little of that which cots little trouble to gain.

      Martin Van Buren (D), 1844

    22. Doug says:

      I don't believe we need a Constitutional amendment if our Congress was honest and obedient to the Constitution we have now. Republicans & Demecrats alike!

    23. Ben C. says:

      Robert is correct. As I recall one of our Congressional Representatives is quoted as saying, "we do what we want and ignore the Constitution" or words to this effect. This occurred during the passage of Obamacare. However, a Balanced Budget Amendment is a good start and will clearly separate the playing field and give clear choices for the next election. My biggest fear is that we are living Tytlers predictions and passed the tipping point: "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship".

    24. I'm glad they've included a cap in these most recent attempts at a BBA. That was a serious deficiency in previous versions as congress could just keep spending as long as they raised taxes to accommodate the spending. I do, however, think 18% of GDP is too high. For the first half of our history the fed was about 3% of GDP. The idea that now we can't get by without 18% is ridiculous. 18% is chosen because most people in congress want to continue to be able to offer socialized entitlement programs like social security and medicare. If congress would cut the entitlements, we could easily get down below 10% of GDP.

      Robert (commentor above) is right about the unfunded mandates, too. If congress is still allowed to mandate things and simply require the states to pay for it in order to keep their budget down, the fed will continue to grow. We would also have to watch for other tricks too.

      While I like the idea of a capped BBA, I don't think we should try to amend the Constitution until congress is ready to drop the cap well below 10%.

    25. RogCol says:

      I do not understand why the Democrats are fighting this one. It will never get by the requirements laid down in the Constitution for a new Ammendment. Even if there is sufficient Republican control of the WH and Congress, there are too many liberal states to get the needed ratification of the Ammendment. Even though most states have a requirement for a Balanced Budget and it works out better than the Feds approach.

    26. Chris says:

      I have a simple one…you can't spend more than you took in last year. If we simply limit the budget to last year's income, it is so simple even a congressman/woman could figure it out.

    27. John Doe says:

      Get – er- done.

    28. sam says:

      Remember Larry Craig and the "Balanced Budget Amendment". We forget fast. Wasting time with this question?

    29. @dWheel8321 says:

      The BBA is bad for the country. It will fundamentally transform the constitution and keeps congress from having to take responsibility for their out of control spending. I implore you to read whats wrong with the BBA before jumping on the BBA bandwagon. These politicians can not be trusted to make any constitutional amendments.

      Why the “Balanced Budget Amendment” is a Hoax – and a Deadly Trap: http://t.co/yrNXREz

    30. Dr. H.D. Sinopoli says:

      You keep promoting the notion that this is a Republican versus Democrat issue. That's not true…it is a lifer Republican & lifer Democrat issue versus a small minority of recently elected Congress members who have not been in Washington long enough to learn how to reap the benefits of spending other peoples money.

      There will be no balenced budget amendment, just like there will be no repeal of Obamacare. The lifers in Washington will never give up sucking the American people dry. Let's get over this so Bohner can get out to play more golf with Barry O.

      I realize this comment does not totally promote Heritage…consequently it will not see the light of day…

    31. Randall says:

      Our budget could be balanced just by cutting out everything that is not authorized by the constitution. We waste a TON of money on stuff that is clearly not allowed under the constitution. Here's some examples. Congress spent $2.6 million to teach Chinese prostitutes how to drink responsibly. Congress paid $500,000 to paint a salmon on an Alaska Airlines passenger jet. Congress appropriates $6.9 billion a year for the National Science Foundation where they fund such research as that which revealed the amazing fact that sick shrimp do not perform as well on stamina tests as do healthy shrimp.

      We don't need a BBA, we just need to shrink the government down to it's constitutional limits as envisioned by our founders.

      In plain English, this is what the 10 Sections of the BBA mean [but read it yourself - it's very short]:
      Section 1: They won't spend more than they take in unless they vote to spend more than they take in.
      Section 2: They won't spend more than 18% of the GDP unless they vote to spend more than 18% of the GDP.
      Section 3: The President will write the budget: He will designate the taxes, and what the money will be spent on. He won't spend more than he decides to tax you for, and he won't spend more than 18% of the GDP. The GDP is a computation made by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the Department of Commerce, an agency under the control of the President. [Do you see? The President controls the agency which computes the number which limits his spending.]
      Section 4: Congress won't make a law raising your taxes unless they vote to raise your taxes.
      Section 5: Congress won't raise the debt limit unless they vote to raise the debt limit.
      Sections 6 & 7: Congress can waive the above provisions of the BBA (except for Sec. 4 which says they can't raise your taxes unless they vote to raise your taxes) when there is a declared war or a "military conflict" which they think justifies their waiving the above provisions of the BBA.
      Section 8: Courts can't order your taxes to be raised. [But you can bet your life that this section, together with section 3, will be seen to authorize the President to order that your taxes be raised.]
      Section 9: I leave this to others to explain. But be assured the President's minions will define stuff however he wants; make stuff "off-budget" or "on-budget" to fit his agenda.
      Section 10: Congress can make laws to enforce the BBA, and can rely on numbers provided by the President who is to be given constitutional authority to order tax increases & decide how to spend the money.

      This thing is a bad idea that needs to go away. Force congress to spend money on only those things allowed and this problem ends.

    32. @dWheel8321 says:

      The BBA is bad for the country. It will fundamentally transform the constitution and keeps congress from having to take responsibility for their out of control spending. I implore you to read whats wrong with the BBA before jumping on the BBA bandwagon. These politicians can not be trusted to make any constitutional amendments. Why the “Balanced Budget Amendment” is a Hoax – and a Deadly Trap http://t.co/yrNXREz

    33. toledofan says:

      I don't think, as long as the Democrats are in the majority, we will ever see a balanced budget amendment, a flat tax, or anything else that resembles efforts to save a dime. The government has gotten so bloated and out of shape, getting back in shape would be like a major biggest loser event. Not only has the number of people employed by the government increased, the number of people that depend on the government for their livelihood has increased by over 50% since the mid 70's. All of the things like a balanced budget are important and that's a great first step, but, there has to be some plan or dialogue indicating where we're going and what we're going to do tomorrow. First the economy needs to be jump started and once that happens the Republicans need to develop the plan for the future and start to address the real problems we face.

    34. Denise says:

      All of members of Congress who vote for the debt ceiling to be raised should lose their jobs in the next election. PERIOD!

    35. Joe Anderson says:

      One thing that would help our budget is to bring federal, state and railroad employees into the social security system. I realize that the original idea was that they had a better plan but clearly their "better plan" is financed at least partially by funds from "the general fund" Obviously they should be contributing to the General Fund if they are to get benefits from it.

    36. MJMacboo says:

      I'm for a balanced budget amendment, but what good would it do, since they have completely trashed the Constitution. McConnell's plan to allow the president to raise the debt ceiling is completely unconstitutional and illegal! We've got to stop this somehow! I am completely outraged.

    37. Gene Zarwell says:

      Balancing a budget by signature would solve many inherent problems within our Congress; (1) it would position power with private sector Tax Base, (2) it would prioritize spending as necessary, contingent, or in trust , (30 it could eliminate Union demands-power-through delegated fraud, and it would identify those seeking to destroy this Republic through media hype and misinformation about personal issues seeking equality within our natural order that created this great nation. It is all about the money for all the wrong reasons. A 5%-6% flat tax one on profits with out added taxes will allow entrepreneurs and corporations working capital to rebuild a national economy that grows through what our founding fathers tried to protect.

    38. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Obama's press conference made no sense.

    39. Jeanne Stotler says:

      Just heard POTUS' press conference?? What a joke, he(aides) pick the questions and who will ask them, if they stray all you hear is the stuttering remarks as BHO cannot think on his feet. He is still blaming Bush even though he created more debt than all the Presidents before him, that is from Washington thru G.W. Bush, he's still talking about spending, when is he going to realize that you cannot spend more than you take in and he cannot keep raising taxes either. It's been well proven raising taxes lowers spending and causes a recession or depression. I have a set amount of money each month I can spend, I first have to take care of utilities then food before I can decide if I can buy anything else, go out to dinner, etc. Now is time for Congress to tell BHO, we will first pay our debt, then our obligations to those who's money we have stolen(Retirees), defense and security, if their is little left we will decide who get's it. How come no one in Congress or BHO has offered to forgo their big salaries or take a cut in pay going back to 1980, and how about all the extra hires he has created??

    40. jane hughes says:

      I am not in favor of a balanced budget amendment because it wil ultimately result in higher taxes. We are in a situation where the Constitution is being ignored, as are many Federal laws (immigration, the New Black Panthers voter intimidation case, etc). What makes anyone think that this amendment would hold any sway? Finally, even if one were in favor of this amendment, in whatever form, it deserves its own debate and should not be attached to anything else- not used as a politics-as-usual ploy to blackmail agreement on a different issue.

    41. Mike says:

      As Alexis de Tocqueville knew, and many of our founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, also knew and said in different words, "The American Republic will succeed, until the politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money".

      In other words, same as the national income tax (which was sold on such as the same old misleading claim that only the rich would have to pay it), it is as the saying goes "Once you let that mischieveous genie out of that bottle, you'll never get him back in!"

      Or in other words…let us, the people, make sure we don't hold our breath waiting for Congress to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment. The odds are against it since too many in Washington, D.C. would see us in our graves before they derail their own spendthrift vote-buying gravy train which goes to show how as government (power) grows, liberty decreases, exactly as Thomas Jefferson also said.

    42. Ron W. Smith says:

      Which is better–the requirement of a balanced budget or real constraints on how business is done in Washington, D.C, and real requirements for doing it? It is no accident we're again hearing some sentiment for a balanced budget at federal level, for the confluence of a huge national debt and the Right's long-time desire to shrink government and go for low taxes makes the timing perfect. The only question is whether, in the long haul, a balanced budget will work better for ALL Americans than changing how business is done in Washington, D. C., will.
      Frustration with government's inability to act is behind this. With a balanced budget amendment, legislators' reluctance to act meets the immovable object: finite dollars available. End of problem. Those of us who live in a state where balancing the budget is constitutional can attest that the outcome is often VERY messy. For instance, in Utah, school funding for K-12 is never adequate because the state's birth rate is high and no extraordinary measures have been taken to face the fact of too little revenue incoming–no really progressive tax system, no limitation on the number of deductions for dependents, no gambling revenue, no earmarked taxes except for "sin" taxes, no nothing. Balancing the budget is simple if painful–keep cutting services. Utah's funding per pupil is the lowest in the nation, teacher reimbursement is near lowest (with other balanced budget and right-to-work states for company), and needed services are shrinking–all with the excuse that funds are inadequate and a balanced budget necessary.
      Now, if there were constraints on what legislators could do and requirements for what they will have to accomplish, a destructive balanced budget, wooden and inflexible, would be unnecessary. Everyone understands, in Utah, that more incoming revenue is needed to meet our needs. However, by relying only on jobs creation and not enacting extraordinary measures for gaining that revenue, legislators hide behind the necessity of balancing the budget without accomplishing the goal of enough incoming revenue.
      Washington is really no different. Putting a pay-go requirement with every proposed expenditure–an extraordinary measure– would accomplish a lot. First of all, justifying huge expenditure on our international adventures would suddenly seem less attractive if all monies had to be allocated up front. (Spending more than the rest of the world combined on National Security does seem bit lavish, no?) Maybe higher taxes would be more attractive to those who regard extravagance on National Security the way they do extravagance on security in their private lives–a cost to be borne only by those who can afford it. Want more international engagement? Volunteer the money up front.
      Year after year expenses like those involved in the "war on drugs" or health care costs allowed, in the free market, to spiral out of control would soon be a thing of the past, for Congress would HAVE to act to solve the problem instead of avoiding them if paygo were the way Washington worked. "Pork" amendments to bills would gradually disappear when up-front payment for them faced off with up-front payment for, say, Medicaid. Just appropriating seems to those elected far easier than risking reelection through unpopular measures, but with a paygo REQUIREMENT the appropriations avenue seems a lot less attractive.
      As good as a balanced budget amendment might seem to some, raising the bar for those we elect is better–expecting and requiring more of them, putting constraints on what they can do, and, yes, discouraging the system we now have.

    43. D. White says:

      The Demos wan compromise. How can you compromise when your going over the cliff at 100 miles/hour?
      We need to stop spending more than we take in, period.

    44. MARDI says:

      I have a new proposal. Cuts. Everyone who receives a check from the federal government (from the President, Congress, all staff, entitlements, military, social security, etc. ) take a 10% cut till election next year. No bonuses or pay increases for one year. We need to get this debt crises handled NOW. Stop putting it off.

    45. RedBaker says:

      Borrowing must be throttled down to zero, fast, like in 3-4 years. When interest rates spike up, interest payments could go to $1 trillion or more.

      It will probably take years to get a constitutional amendment prohibiting borrowing, but we must try that too. The best method is to vote out anyone opposed to balance, or voting for spending which then requires borrowing.

    46. Frank says:

      I agree with ActingUpinTexas:

      "Our government has for all intense purposes stopped being an overseer of the people, and instead has become a huge hammer to pound us collectively into dust. Our country, our people and our way of life as a free nation of free people has all but disappeared through manipulation and confiscation."

      But how has this occurred? First of all, we allowed ourselves to get a Central Bank (run by a private banking cartel) called the Federal Reserve in1913. These private bankers have been allowed extraordinary powers that resulted in their extraordinary corruption. We should have learned from Europe's experience with them how bad they can be with all the powers they had been given. We should have also learned from our own brief experiences with US Central Banks prior to 1913, how bad they were.

      In the same year (1913) we allowed a Constitutional Amendment for Income Taxes. Central Bankers, Big Business & Big Unions could then "buy politicians" & manipulate the Income Tax laws to their benefit. Not only were Central Bankers fully corrupted with power, but so were the politicians by learning how to "buy" perpetual re-elections by promising "free lunches" to the rabble & tax loopholes to Big Business & selective enforcement of the law to Big Unions. We moved away from true capitalism to "crony capitalism".

      Finally, in 1971, Richard Nixon formally ended any link between the US Dollar and the Gold Standard. The US Dollar became a 100% fiat currency (worth only the paper it was printed on) that was even more easily manipulated by Central Bankers and now allowed virtually unlimited spending by Congress to insure even more, their perpetual re-elections & promises of never ending "free lunches" for the rabble.

      So passing a Balanced Budget Amendment is only one step needed to fix the mess we are in. We also need to abolish the corrupt Federal Reserve, return to sound money based upon something with intrinsic value (I think a dual gold/silver standard in the ratio of 1:16 is best, like before the Civil War), abolish the Income Tax & go to a simple Fair Tax (with everyone putting some "skin in the game"… no more "free lunches for the rabble" & no more tax loopholes for Big Business). We might also need term limits, but I'm not sure of that if the corrupting natures of the above are eliminated.

    47. Pops says:

      There is a very strong reason to support this ammendment. I quote Congressman Istook: "The BBA is a powerful proposal that attracts great vitriol from the American Left, …"

      Note that he said "Left." Not Domocrat, not Republican, not Independent nor any other electorial party.

    48. Steve H says:

      These amendments would require spending cuts/tax increases when the economy is in a downturn or recession – which would make the recessions longer and deeper. Terrible economic policy for lawmakers looking to score some points and not have to make tough decisions.

      Any Member who votes against rasising the debt limit should be tried for treason – for trying to destroy the country! If we default, the entire country is screwed and deficits and debts will skyrocket beyond anything we can imagine.

      Which president rasied the debt limit more than any other – Reagan!!! 17 times he raised it. yes, 17 times! Obaam has rasied it 3 times – less than 20% than President Reagan.

    49. Eric Neubauer says:

      I found an anti BBA essay at Publius-Huldah's Blog which would be worth reading before wholeheartedly supporting the BBA. I suspect this is another feel good gimmick which we may regret later. Can we really count on a Congress that has great trouble proposing a balanced budget to support an effective amendment that would give us a balanced budget? At least read an opposing conservative view at:

    50. Richard Oakley says:

      This should be read and understood by all Americans Democrats, Republicans, EVERYONE!!
      To President Obama and all 535 voting members of the Legislature, It is now official that the majority of you are corrupt:
      a. The U.S. Postal Service was established in 1775. You have had 234 years to get it right and it is broke.
      b. Social Security was established in 1935. You have had 74 years to get it right and it is broke..
      c. War on Poverty started in 1964. You have had 45 years to get it right; $1 trillion of our money is confiscated each year and transferred to "the poor" and they only want more.
      e. The Department of Energy was created in 1977 to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. It has ballooned to 16,000 employees with a budget of $24 billion a year and we import more oil than ever before. You had 32 years to get it right and it is an abysmal failure.
      You have FAILED in every "government service" you have shoved down our throats while overspending our tax dollars.

    51. Ron W. Smith says:

      Which is better–the requirement of a balanced budget or real constraints on how business is done in Washington, D.C, and real requirements for doing it? It is no accident we're again hearing some sentiment for a balanced budget at federal level, for the confluence of a huge national debt and the Right's long-time desire to shrink government and go for low taxes makes the timing perfect. The only question is whether, in the long haul, a balanced budget will work better for ALL Americans than changing how business is done in Washington, D. C., will.

    52. davenhockley says:


    53. Wayne, La. says:

      It seems like a balanced budget amendment is important for our country's survival. It also seems that money falls from the Federal Governments Money Tree. Don't worry the debt limit is a myth.

    54. Joe Ruffino says:

      All Democrats from the top to bottom, except for the few with open minds should be deported. They have their choice of what Socialist country we will ship them. My suggestion would be Norway because they have experience with quislings. Which the Democrats are for the way they disregard the Constitution and what it means to a free society.

    55. Brian says:

      No, to BBA.
      The proposed amendment brings with it many unintended consequences. It provides a mechanism to "automatically" raise taxes. it also does not address ths issue of "debt ceiling", which is a joke in its own right.
      personally I'd like to see an amendment that constrains spending to a preset limit, such as no greater than 95% of the previous fiscal years revenues. This puts Congress and the President of passing and signing specific increases in taxes, to which we can hold them accountable in the next election cycle. I don't like giving any politician the ability to hide behind the excuse of "the tax increases were mandated by the Constitution…." In addition, during an economic downturn it becomes difficult for the government to use failed Keynsian policies to expand jobs (government jobs, that is….).

    56. Pingback: Lecciones de la historia sobre la enmienda del presupuesto balanceado | Heritage Libertad

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