A Modest Balanced Budget Proposal

Conservatives should not waste their time or energy promoting a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  It is too hard to accomplish.  The amendment process requires supermajorities of both houses of Congress and a supermajority of states.  Besides, it is not clear that it is a good idea.  The founders included in the Constitution a power in Congress to borrow on the credit of the United States precisely because they knew that borrowing is sometimes a necessity of good government.

I make this argument at greater length at Public Discourse, but I don’t leave it on this negative note.  I also point out that there is something less demanding, but more practical, that conservatives could pursue–a reform that is within reach.  They could change the budgeting process–which is governed by law and therefore alterable by law, without the herculean task of amending the Constitution–to require the president to prepare and submit a balanced budget.  Admittedly, this is not the same as enacting a balanced budget, but at least it would be a step in that direction, and would serve as step toward deliberating about how to manage our public finances responsibly.


I argue (in part) as follows:

This proposal would foster at least some public pressure on policy-makers not to engage in deficit spending, or at least not without a powerful reason. Legislators would no longer begin their deliberations from a budget based simply on the previous one, one with greater expenditures than revenues. They would instead begin from a balanced budget proposal that would at least be technically feasible, if politically difficult. This would be enough to undermine the now-prevailing sense that deficit spending is automatic or habitual, almost as if it were out of anyone’s control.

You can read the whole article here.



  • Chris

    That seems like a brilliant idea. That may lead us to financial sustainability with shackling ourselves in cases of emergency.



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