Monday, July 18, 2011

Why a balanced budget amendment is a bad idea

Robert Samuelson:

A balanced-budget amendment: Bad idea, for many reasons - PostPartisan - The Washington Post
The Constitution is the repository of the nation’s basic political principles. This is why it commands public respect. What the Constitution is not (and should not become) is a handbook for the day-to-day operations of government. The fatal flaw of the BBA is that it would take the Constitution in precisely this direction. It not only says the budget should be balanced, but one Republican version says it should be balanced at 18 percent of the economy (gross domestic product). That’s not a principle; it’s an instruction. Why not 17 percent or 22 percent of GDP? What happens in a national emergency?
Samuelson also notes that such an amendment would also "inspire evasion" which is a nice way of saying people will find ways to NOT follow the rules.  The problem with complex systems (like government rules) is that they create opportunities for creative people to find ways to bend them.

Additionally, I worry that these types of proposals give citizens the idea that there is some set of magic rules out there, just waiting to be discovered.  If only we could find them, we could give up the hard work of paying attention to politicians and their positions on the issues and take it easy for a while.  I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the government is not a Showtime Rotisserie; we can't just set it and forget it.

As the party of smaller government (at least in theory) Republicans ought to be looking for ways to simplify government, reduce regulation, and eliminate, not enact, rules wherever possible.  This includes eliminating the debt ceiling.

It is then up to us to hold our elected officials accountable for the votes they make, including votes to keep spending money we don't have.


Dad29 said...

Well said.

Another problem is that Medicare/SocSec expenditures will continue to rise.

What happens when THEY are 18% of GDP?

J. Strupp said...

...Just shut everything else down and let the private sector take over, dadster.

A balanced budget amendment actually seems like an answer to your hopes and dreams.

Dad29 said...

No, Strupp.

However, it IS the hopes-and-dreams of politicians like McConnell.

After all, who wants to actually WORK out there with all the parties and golf-games going on?

Jeremy R. Shown said...

Struppster - good to hear from you.

amjp said...

What none of you so far seem to understand is both history and economics. In 1931, Hooverites tried to cut spending significantly, and look what happened: The greatest depression in US history. Why? Money has to be available for economic growth, jobs, and so forth. FDR understood this. If banks can't lend, businesses can't borrow, jobs can't be created, and people won't have any money to spend. Just see what happened this week (beginning of August 2011). A stymied federal government is an insane idea and completely antithetical to growth. Prudence is good, but not stagnation.