Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Obligatory Balance Budget Amendment Post

If I had to pick one thing everyone should know about Balanced Budget Amendments in general, it's that they're all frauds -- none of them, and certainly not the half-assed one that Republicans are pushing this time around, would actually balance the budget.

If you want more...I'd recommend Bruce Bartlett and/or Stan Collender on what a scam this thing is, Robert Greeenstein for the actual likely effects if the GOP plan was enacted, which of course it won't be, and Doug Kendall and Dahlia Lithwick on the BBA and the Framers. Oh, and I talked about it in some detail a while back, when I was in a less cranky (although hardly any more forgiving) mood.

Of course, I'm not exactly a proponent of the underlying idea, anyway. But to put my cards on the table: 1. I think the idea that the federal government's budget has to be balanced over the long run is wrong; 2. I think that the idea that it should be balanced every year is wrong and somewhat nutty; 3. Even if you disagree and believe it should be balanced every year, a constitutional amendment is the wrong way to go about it; 4. This particular proposed amendment is amateurish nonsense.


  1. I agree that it seems like a bad idea since Rep. Ryan's plan doesn't even make the cut and of course, the latter is an irony in its own right. Though, do you, Mr. Bernstein, think its possible that the BBA might included in a final deal? With the logic being give the Tea Party a nominal victory since wouldn't the BBA only take affect if 38 states approve it and isn't that highly unlikely.

  2. Amateurish nonsense- wasn't that the working title for the Republican Study Committee??

  3. Two thoughts:

    1) Like many states, congress *could* utilize a "rainy day fund"-type provision to operate within their budget without actually so every year. This may not be a great idea for the federal govt, but at least hypothetically, they don't need actually to balance the budget each year in a balanced-budget environment.

    2) I didn't get my right-wing MSM fix today, but a hunch tells me that there was a lot of "Obama/Dems hate fiscal responsibility" and not as much of "18% hard cap is a ridiculously rigid methodology to deal with an ever-changing fiscal landscape". Hard to believe we're this close to the precipice, and yet the national Republican party can't stop the machinating.

  4. Sorry for the late comment, but I've yet to see any comments on whether states would be willing to ratify this thing. Correct me if I am wrong, but one of the reasons that states can balance - to the degree they actually do - their budgets, is because the national government does not have to. It can pump funds into states durign times of crisis. How many states were able to maintain services in 2009 and 2010 and keep budgets in balance without the stimulus?

    So are there 13 states out there that see little reaon to ratify this thing? If so, why not call the Tea Party's bluff?

    Aside from that, is there any way to determine whether it is in the 50 states' collective interest for the national government to maintain balanced budgets, or whether different states come out ahead or are hurt by such an amendment?


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