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Key Elements of a Successful Balanced Budget Amendment
Posted by Randy | April 08, 2011
We are in a fiscal crisis. Federal spending is out of control. Overspending will only stop if Congress cuts spending now. I have long called for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. This WebMemo from the Heritage Foundation points out the key elements of a successful balanced budget amendment.

According to the memo, a successful BBA should:

Control spending, taxing, and borrowing through a requirement to balance the budget.
The BBA should cap annual spending at a level not exceeding either: (a) a specified percentage of the value of goods and services the economy produces in a year (known as gross domestic product, or GDP), or (b) the level of revenues. To ensure that Congress cannot simply balance the budget by continually raising taxes instead of cutting overspending, the BBA should require Congress to act by supermajority votes if Members wish to raise taxes. Any authority the BBA grants Congress to deal with economic slowdowns, by waiving temporarily the requirement that spending not exceed the GDP percentage or revenue level, should specify the amount of above-revenue spending allowed and require supermajority votes.

Defend America
. The BBA should allow Congress by supermajority votes to waive temporarily compliance with the balanced budget requirement when waiver is essential to pay for the defense of Americans from attack.

Enforce the balanced budget requirement.
The BBA should provide for its own enforcement, but must specifically exclude courts from any enforcement of the BBA, so unelected judges do not make policy decisions such as determining the appropriate level of funding for federal programs. A government that spends money in excess of its revenues must borrow to cover the difference. Therefore, to enforce the requirement to balance the budget, the BBA should prohibit government issuance of debt, except when necessary to finance a temporary deficit resulting from congressional supermajority votes discussed above.

I have cosponsored H.J.Res.2, which would address each of these key elements of a balanced budget amendment. Specifically, the bill will force Congress to enact fiscally responsible spending measures, reduce the deficit, and ensure that the money our citizens work so hard to earn is not spent on wasteful spending and programs.

The bill requires that Congress not spend more than it receives in revenues, requires the President to submit a balanced budget to Congress, and requires a 3/5 majority vote to increase the debt limit. The bill authorizes a waiver of the provisions when a declaration of war is in effect as declared by a joint resolution, adopted by a majority of the whole number of each House, which has become law.

Do you think a Balanced Budget Amendment should be a priority for this Congress? Why or why not?
What do you think? Weigh in:
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  • Lowell Lindly commented on 4/15/2011
    A drastic measure to be sure, but one whose time has come.
  • William Broome commented on 4/16/2011
    A balanced budget amendment is essential for the survival of our country as we know it. The sooner, the better. My sense is we don't have much time. The will of the people as expressed by their elected representatives, senators and president is not collectively strong enough to maintain sufficient self-discipline to balance the budget otherwise. One issue not discussed in the key elements is reducing the national debt. A balanced budget would only require that we stop adding to the debt and only pay the interest on the existing debt. There should be a provision that the national debt must be reduced over time, perhaps a long time, so that revenue that now finances the debt can eventually be used to reduce taxes or fund government operations. The strength of our currency, our economy and our global influence will increase proportionally, perhaps exponentially, as we lower the debt.
  • Donna Ellis commented on 6/8/2011
    It's about time!!! Thank you!!!
  • Carroll Casey commented on 6/9/2011
    I would like to see as part of the balancing the budget, the suspension or termination of monetary aid provided to foreign countries whose citizens (nationalities) participate in attacks on America or American properties and/or American personnel any where in the world. In this memo, it is not clear to me if the war time waiver, that bribing countries with foreign aid would be considered a "defense" expenditure in an effort to buy the allegience of former or current friendly nations who participate in movements against the United States. I am also a little reluctant making legal decisions outside the purview of the Supreme Court. Resolutions as to legality of waivers should bypass appellate courts and be considered directly by the Supreme Court.
  • James Pembroke commented on 6/10/2011
    There is an additional component that must be included if this balanced budget is to be fair and equitable. You and I have broached this area before. It is time for the members of Congress (past and present) as well as other Federal representatives (past and present) to stop the monies that are paid to these elected officials after they leave office. If I leave a job, my pay will end on my last day on the job. I have the impression that you and others find this gift to be an entitlement. It is not. I agree with everything else that you are doing as my elected representative.
  • Gary Anderson commented on 6/24/2011
    Ok so what is your solution if the cuts increase the debt? If revenue drops because people have even less money how do you think that will impact Republicans in the future? Here is the deal, unless we are willing to cut across the board, and not just the poor or old, and unless we raise taxes in the wealthy who stole mainstreet blind for the last 10 years, you Republicans are risking being forever banished from politics by your actions.
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