Balanced Budget Amendment

Just so we’re clear here, the Balanced Budget Amendment now being focused upon by Republicans is a phenomenally bad idea.

First, Norm Ornstein (former guest speaker of the NCSU PS department, and more notably, resident scholar at AEI).  Ah, forget the long quote– I’ll summarize.  1) In a downturn of course we need counter-cyclical spending.  You need to borrow to do that.  Every advanced economy in the world does this.  2) The level of spending called for in the Amendment means that even Paul Ryan’s draconian cuts wouldn’t be draconian enough.  Ornstein’s summary:

That this amendment has been endorsed by all 47 Republicans in the Senate, and that a dozen Republicans have pledged not to increase the debt limit without the amendment, are sad commentaries on our politics. But the effects should this amendment be adopted would be frightening.

One mistake there, though…  this is a sad commentary on The Republican Party.

From an entirely different perspective, David Kendall and Dahlia Lithwick have a great place in Slate about how this particular amendment would make the founders roll over in their graves:

A balanced budget amendment sounds like a great idea—until you read a little U.S. history and count all the times America spent more in a fiscal year than it raised in taxes and why that was necessary for our very survival. As this article published by the Constitutional Accountability Center (which one of us helped write, and which our piece relies on) makes clear, debt helped fund the War for Independence, complete the Louisiana Purchase, and preserve the Union during the Civil War. Debt not only helped us weather the Great Depression; it also gave us the tools we needed to emerge victorious from two world wars…

It’s fairly certain that George Washington and the other Founders gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 would be appalled by the Lee amendment…

Moreover, in creating a supermajority requirement, the sponsors of the Balanced Budget Amendment do violence to another central tenet of the framer’s project: The need for majority rule. The Founders made majority rule the default rule for our democratic Constitution…

Finally, in a Constitution filled with broad principles of governance, the amendment’s arbitrary spending limit of 18 percent of GDP—an awkward and unworkable figure—would stick out like a sore thumb.

Short version (yeah, after a long post): Balanced Budget Amendment is bad policy, contrary to our Constitution and political traditions, and just plain dumb.  Not really that surprising that this is what the contemporary Republican party is pushing.

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