Even Conservatives Hate Balanced Budget Amendments


    Here we go again in the 6th District. My “representative” in the House is on one of his usual tirades. Bob Goodlatte is an avid fan of a “balanced budget amendment.” In fact, Goodlatte finds some reason to introduce one during each session of Congress. He even did that while he voted for all of George Bush’s budget-busting schemes. Now, even though Goodlatte insists that he is a conservative, perhaps he would do well to check into what some real conservatives have said about the ridiculous idea of amending the Constitution to force a “balanced budget,” something logically impossible to do.

    Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Peter Schouk, a professor at Yale Law School, stated, “I can think of no other law that would empower judges to exercise more political and policy-making discretion than a balanced budget amendment. It would quickly realize every conservative’s fears of an ‘imperial judiciary’ that ‘legislates from the bench’ – even if the courts simply did their job and did not grasp for that power.”

    C. Neul, who writes his own conservative blog, had an even better reason for people who are conservatives being adamantly against a balanced budget amendment.

    “The fact that the House GOP members are pushing such an amendment is more non-partisan proof that you don’t want to give too much power to Congress, because, in total, they are simply never the brightest guys in the room. Letting them add a BBA to the Constitution would create a nightmare worse, if that’s possible, than our current…fiscal situation.”

    Schouk explained some of his concerns about the horrors that a BBA would unleash. Courts would be swamped by challenges to every decision by government that had budgetary implications. Judges would have to decide who had standing to sue under the amendment. If judges refused to name the party that had standing, then the amendment would be unenforceable. That very situation of determining who has standing is one of the many messes already being forced into the courts by the likes of flat-earther Ken Cuccinelli.

    Even if we were stupid enough to approve a BBA, Social Security, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac are all off-budget and would not be covered. The use of a broad term like “tax” in a BBA would result in judges again having to assume the power of determining exactly what constitutes a tax. Also, courts would become the arbiters of what would be done about federal loan guarantees, long-term capital investments, etc.

    In essence, a balanced budget amendment is a dangerous and ridiculously simplistic non-solution to our fiscal situation, one that can only be sold to those who are incapable of thinking about the consequences of their actions. One such non-thinker is Bob Goodlatte, sadly a shoo-in for re-election.

    The best arguments against Goodlatte’s stupid BBA don’t come from us progressives. They come from people who really are conservatives, not knee-jerk, tea-poisoned Republican pseudo-conservatives like Goodlatte.

    • Dan Sullivan

      Let’s not and say we did! (And not a whimper from “conservatives”)

      On the Federal level there are all types of tricks unavailable to the states for creating the illusion of balance. It does matter what balanced means and unless it is a Strict Cash Basis Amendment, “balanced” will be in the eyes of the beholder.

    • glennbear

      As Keith Olberman recently pointed out in his comments on Countdown one of the fatal flaws in a balanced budget amendment is sudden unexpected emergency federal expenditures.

      Here is a list of such emergencies:

      Rash of tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes.

      Unexpected “conflict” “police action” or war.

      Drastic financial changes which require injection of federal money to prevent total financial collapse.

      Cyber or physical attacks by terrorists which requires money to combat/prevent.

      Economic downturns which add dramatically to safety net expenditures so that citizens are not starving to death or dying in the streets for lack of health care.

      Fortunately we have not seen any of the above in recent history that have required expenditures that would blow a balanced budget all to hell. (snark)

      Those of us who try to run a “balanced” family budget have never had that budget blown up by the death of a major appliance, major auto repairs or a roof replacement.(snark #2)

      Finally for our conservative free enterprise worshipping brethern, we have not seen any corporations running a “balanced budget” close their doors recently because of changing economic conditions.(snark #3)