GOP balanced budget amendment is irresponsible political theater

u.s. constitution

Even the conservative American Enterprise Institute thinks the GOP plan to blackmail Congress into a vote on the amendment is a bad idea. Image: CC Canon in 2D/Flickr

Senate Republicans are pushing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They intend to force Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment in return for votes that would approve raising the debt ceiling, which the federal government will need to do to pay its bills. Economists dismiss the balanced budget amendment as irresponsible political theater, and chances it would be ratified are nil.

GOP turns record surplus into record deficit

More than a dozen Republican senators are co-sponsoring a bill for a balanced budget amendment written by Orrin Hatch of Utah and John Cornyn of Texas. Congressional Republicans tried to pass a balanced budget amendment during the Clinton Administration in 1992, 1995 and 1997, although Clinton’s 1993 deficit reduction package resulted in a $5.6 trillion government surplus by 2001 as projected by the Congressional Budget Office. Republicans quit pushing a balanced budget amendment when George W. Bush took office in 2001. A Republican Congress and the Bush administration spent the surplus on tax cuts and wars, increasing the federal deficit to $10 trillion by the fall of 2008 when the financial crisis reached critical mass.

Balanced budget amendment blackmail

Now with a Democrat in the White House, Republicans have dusted off the balanced budget amendment once again. Even Cornyn admits that forcing Congress to vote on such an amendment that has no chance of being ratified is nothing but political theater.  Cornyn told the right wing website Human Events that “Voters would then know, with very stark clarity, who is for a balanced budget and who is not, and it could have a big impact on the 2012 elections.” To force Congress into allowing such posturing, Republicans are resorting to blackmail. In exchange for allowing the federal debt ceiling to exceed its current $14.2 trillion cap, which a fragile global economic recovery depends on, Republicans are demanding that Congress vote on a balanced budget amendment.

Even conservatives think the balanced budget amendment is a bad idea

Among other fantasies, the Republican balanced budget amendment prohibits tax hikes. The last time the GOP tried the stunt, Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, warned that if an amendment was in force, a recession could quickly turn into something worse. The conservative American Enterprise Institute calls the balanced budget amendment “the most irresponsible action imaginable.” The liberal Center on Budget and Policy said it eliminates the government’s economic stabilizers, such as unemployment benefits that expand during downturns, from working when they are needed the most. There is a reason only 27 amendments have been made to the U.S. Constitution since it was ratified in 1788. Two thirds of the House and Senate must vote yes, then legislatures from at least 38 states must do the same.



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