Should a Constitutional amendment be passed, requiring the U.S. federal government to balance the budget, limiting expenditures to revenues or a percentage of Gross Domestic Product?

In a Nutshell

Yes

No

  1. The U.S. economy already has a near $15 trillion debt and is on a path for bankruptcy, and politicians from both major parties have shown they don't have the discipline and political will to make the tough decisions needed to balance the budget on their own.
  2. The mere act of passing the budget is likely to save the country's AAA credit rating, ensuring low interest rates for investors and consumers, while keeping interest costs from being a prohibitive proportion of the country's annual budget.
  3. It diminishes the ability of politicians to add their own pork barrel projects to unrelated bills, decreasing the amount of horse-trading for votes and forcing politicians to vote on the merits of bills rather than whether or not it benefits their election district.
  4. It adds accountability to expenditures, as every dollar of spending in a tight budget is scrutinized, and projects & agencies that don't show results are more likely to be discontinued.
  5. Since new spending will be very difficult to implement, elections will be more focused on character of the politician and how we'll they'll govern rather than how much they can do for special interest groups or campaign contributors.
  6. The amendment will constrain the growth of government, as increased spending always leads to more agencies, regulations, bureaucrats, and encroachment on our freedoms.
  1. An uncertain future, possibly involving war, terrorism, economic depression, or other crises, demands that maximum flexibility be available to the government.
  2. Keynesian economists believe deficit spending can help turn a bad economy around (although this is hotly contested by other economists).
  3. The timing of many expenditures are out of the control of the government (for example, unemployment compensation costs increase during a recession and revenues decrease due to fewer people working & paying taxes).
  4. A balanced budget likely cannot be achieved without very painful changes, such as increased taxes or a major cut in entitlements including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
  5. It would likely give unelected courts certain powers over the budget, as any Constitutional amendment is subject to extensive judicial review. Judges always have the power to rule something "unconstitutional" based on their own interpretations.

Related Links

Wikipedia - Balanced Budget Amendment
Seven Reforms to Balance the Budget
Analyzing the case for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution
Understanding Fiscal Responsibility - Balanced Budget
Balanced Budget Amendment Pros and Cons
Balanced Budget Amendment May Create More Problems than it Fixes

Is anything missing? Is any of the material inaccurate? Please let me know.

Written by:
Joe Messerli
Page Last Updated:
01/07/2012
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