DO WE REALLY HAVE TO DEBATE THE BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT AGAIN?…. In the mid-1990s, Republicans thought it’d be fun to push a proposed balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was a silly gimmick that no sensible person could take seriously, and the push faded when Clinton eliminated the deficit he’d inherited from Reagan/Bush, and the “need” for such an amendment disappeared.
In the Bush/Cheney era, the idea fell out of favor. Bush endorsed the BBA as a governor, but all that was quickly forgotten as Republicans added $5 trillion to the debt, and GOP lawmakers decided it was “standard practice” for Republicans “not to pay for things.”
With Democrats once again in the majority, wouldn’t you know it, the balanced budget amendment is back from the grave.
It started after the 2008 elections. With the economy in freefall, and quite a bit of talk about another Great Depression, leading Republican voices — including Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence — said what the country really needed to do was pass an amendment to the Constitution banning deficits. Democrats wisely ignored the hopelessly insane suggestion.
But the GOP continues to embrace proposals in inverse proportion to their seriousness.
Senate Republicans are planning a new push for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution when lawmakers return to Washington after the August recess.
GOP Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) will lead the charge in the fall, when Democrats plan to debate raising taxes on families that earn more than $250,000 a year. […]
They believe the proposal, which came within one vote of passing Congress in 1995, will gain new political traction in the weeks before the election, when federal deficits are a chief concern of many voters.
This is just so tiresome. The same senators who supported some of the largest budget deficits in generations are now pushing a constitutional amendment to prohibit lawmakers from doing what they’ve already done.
If you were engaged in politics in 1995, some of the arguments against the BBA will probably be familiar to you, and if this starts to go anywhere, we can explore this in more detail. But to briefly review the reasons this is absurd, keep a couple of things in mind. First, sometimes, running a deficit is both wise and necessary, and writing a prohibition into constitutional stone would potentially tie policymakers’ hands at key moments of crisis. Second, if the language made exceptions in which deficits would be allowed — wars, economic crises, etc. — then there’s no point in having the amendment.
But perhaps most importantly, if so-called deficit hawks want a balanced budget, they can and should present a plan on how to make that happen. Instead, these hacks are embracing the easy way out — instead of doing the hard work, they want to play with a gimmick that will mandate a policy they can’t figure out on their own.
In other words, those who want a balanced budget amendment should make plain how they’d balance the budget. Otherwise, the scheme is just a silly political charade.
Republicans, who refuse to take policymaking seriously, intend to push this again after the recess, hoping voters won’t realize how dumb it is.