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.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author

Carson Holloway is a political scientist and the author of The Way of Life: John Paul II and the Challenge of Liberal Modernity (Baylor University Press), The Right Darwin? Evolution, Religion, and the Future of Democracy (Spence Publishing), and All Shook Up: Music, Passion and Politics (Spence Publishing), and the editor of a collection of essays entitled Magnanimity and Statesmanship (Lexington Books). His articles have appeared in the Review of Politics, Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy, Perspectives on Political Science, and First Things. He is a regular contributor to the online journal The Public Discourse. Holloway was a 2005-06 William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Northern Illinois University in 1998.

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