Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Argument Against Goodlatte's Balanced Budget Amendment

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the man who represents us in Congress and who is full of ideas that the far right loves, is again pushing his Balanced Budget Amendment. This comes on the heels of his absurd pronouncements that the Obama Administration's health care bill would cause us massive levels of debt (when actually it will reduce same).

I'm not a good man with numbers (ask my business partner), but Rich Lowry is. He wrote this piece for the conservative Bible, The National Review and here's some of what he says about the amendment:

The balanced-budget amendment came to prominence in the Contract With America (Note: That should read "Contract ON America") back in the 1990s. It fell a vote short in the Senate and was soon forgotten — and deserved to be. A simple balanced-budget amendment threatens Republican fiscal priorities; it would create even more pressure to raise taxes. A straightforward amendment recognizes no difference between balance at 24 percent of GDP and at 15 percent of GDP.

Realizing this, House Republicans have crafted a version that essentially mandates their favored fiscal policies. It requires that spending not exceed 18 percent of GDP and stipulates that only a two-thirds majority can raise taxes. Only modesty, presumably, prevented the amendment’s authors from spelling out budgetary levels for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Constitution is meant to set out the basic rules of the road for American governance. It’s not an appropriate vehicle for enshrining transitory or controversial policy preferences. ... That the amendment would precipitate legal action is acknowledged in the amendment’s own language: “No court of the United States or of any State shall order any increase in revenue to enforce this article.” Judicial interventions in budgetary matters are, by implication, acceptable so long as they bring spending cuts.

... [The amendment] allows for a waiver in fiscal years in which a declaration of war against a nation-state is in effect. ... We haven’t declared war on anyone since World War II. The amendment’s exception wouldn’t have accounted for the Cold War or the War on Terror, neither of which entailed declarations of war on nation-states.

... The impulse behind the amendment is certainly laudable — to attack the debt problem at its root. But a strictly balanced budget is not important enough to be written into the Constitution. The difference between balance and a small deficit is meaningless in the long run ... We ran budget deficits from 1970 to 1997, and the republic survived. ... The current threat to the country is historic deficits driven by historic levels of spending. Favoring the balanced-budget amendment does nothing to address those problems in the here and now.

We must remember where these deficits came from: George Bush left them for us when he tried to conduct two wars, cut taxes and spend like the conservatives accuse the liberals of wanting to spend. Bush's dad also left historic levels of debt and Reagan ran them up to unhealthy levels, as well. And don't forget: Bill Clinton left not only peace, but also a surplus in the treasury. Without a balanced budget amendment.


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