No Need for a Balanced Budget Amendment?

While the federal government continues to spend recklessly, there have been many outcries for remedy.  One of the most popular solutions is a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.  My Representative, Bob Goodlatte, is one of the chief proponents of this effort and has been championing the idea for many years.

Earlier today, I received an interesting email on the subject from his Republican opponent for Virginia’s sixth district seat, Karen Kwiatkowski.  The text is as follows:

Representative Goodlatte, representing his own constituency of “always bigger government” while continually complaining that Congress can’t seem to make ends meet, has asked us to speak out on his Balanced Budget Amendment (Roanoke Times, 9/19/2001).    I, and many others, have publicly criticized the proposed amendment for being toothless and too late.  Yet, with false promises of future savings, Bob once again voted to raise the debt ceiling, most recently to over $14 trillion dollars.

Turns out, we never needed a balanced budget amendment, because we already have a Public Law that requires the federal government to live within its means.  Public Law 95-435 was signed into law in 1977, and went into effect in 1981.  It states, “The total outlays of the Federal Government shall not exceed its receipts.”

Our Congress does not, and has never, followed the laws it passes, nor is it overly concerned with the Constitution.  We seem to be represented by a Congressman who doesn’t even know the existing law.  Instead, he harps on a new amendment, one which offers the Congress many waivers, no penalties, will take years to be ratified, if ever, and abjectly fails to address the money creating function of the Federal Reserve.

I guess there’s a reason why a CBS poll this week showed that only 6% of voters believe the congressional incumbents deserve to remain in office.

Looking over the congressional summary of H.R. 9214 which apparently became Public Law 95-435 on October 10th, 1978, one does indeed find that “beginning with fiscal year 1981, the total budget outlays of the Federal Government shall not exceed its receipts”.  You can read the official summary for yourself on the Library of Congress Thomas website here.

This development raises three very important questions.  Assuming Public Law 95-435 is in effect, why is it insufficient?  And if it is a law, then how has the Congress been able to act in bold defiance of this law for the last thirty years?  Will a balanced budget amendment solve this problem?

So is a balanced budget amendment necessary to restrain our out of control federal spending as Bob Goodlatte recommends?  Or is it simply a smoke and mirrors ploy as Karen Kwiatkowski writes?

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