Voting on the BBA

Like many folks, I too support the idea of a balanced budget.  The federal government must get its finances in order to prevent the country from spiraling deeper into debt.  Every state government except the socialist-leaning Vermont requires a balanced budget, so why should D.C. be any different?  My Representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), is working hard to pass a balanced budget amendment.  Currently, he is promoting two differing versions and you can listen to his commentary on this issue here:

This morning on Facebook, Representative Justin Amash (MI-3) offered a few of his concerns regarding the specifics of the proposal:

I appreciate the efforts of leadership and Rep. Bob Goodlatte to improve the version of the balanced budget amendment coming to the House floor. However, I still have serious concerns about how this BBA will function if ratified.

First, its design will cause big spikes and dips in the federal budget, which means it doesn’t sufficiently protect against sudden, dramatic tax hikes and doesn’t lend itself to long-term policy making. This BBA would not permit multi-year averaging of revenues to smooth out the curve, not even through separate implementing legislation.

Second, it allows a simple majority (of the whole) to authorize unlimited deficit spending whenever the country is in a military conflict. Fortunately, the revised version limits deficit spending to the extent required for the specific military conflict.

Third, the balance requirement takes effect five years after ratification, with no gradual phase-in. The way Congress works, it’s unlikely that serious efforts at spending reform will occur until the last minute. With the balance requirement looming, Members of Congress will feel immense pressure simply to raise taxes (massively) to avoid violating the Constitution, or, perhaps more likely, the BBA will be ignored.

Amending the Constitution is a serious matter with monumental implications. I support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, but it’s critical that we do this the right way and not just to make a political statement.

My biggest concern is point number two that Amash raises.  Given that this nation has more or less been in constant military conflict for the last decade, can’t Congress easily ignore the principles of this balanced budget amendment?  And if the answer were yes, would a balanced budget amendment serve much of a purpose at all?

We need to stop spending our future, our children’s future, and yes, even our grandchildren’s future.  America must have a balanced budget amendment for it is abundantly clear that if given a blank check, Washington will spend and borrow like there is no tomorrow.  I just want to make sure that if we manage to pass a BBA, it has sufficient teeth to properly restrain those in power.

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