Even In A Watered Down Version, The Balanced Budget Amendment Should Pass

One of the primary concerns conservatives have with the balanced budget amendment being voted on in the House today is that it contains no provisions to require super majorities for tax hikes. Conservatives argue that without those provisions, the requirement for a balanced budget will result in tax hikes not spending cuts.

It’s a valid concern, but during an interview today my Congressman Rep. Rick Berg made an interesting point about that:

Some conservatives, including Duane Sand who is challenging Berg for NDGOP’s Senate nomination in the 2012 race, have said that the balanced budget amendment would make it too easy to raise taxes. “Washington politicians are trying to weaken the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment by stripping it of a super-majority requirement to allow for tax hikes,” Sand said in a campaign emailing today. “Currently before the House of Representatives, big spenders are planning on allowing a simple majority vote in the watered-down version to increase taxes so that they can continue their reckless spending.”

But Berg dismissed those concerns saying that voters will judge tax increases at the ballot box. “Basically today if you said we need to balance the budget is to increase revenue or cut the budget,” said Berg. “The alternative is we’ve been building this huge deficit. If this passes and taxes are increased to balanced some future budget, that can be settled in the polls on election day every two years.”

I think Berg’s right. Raising taxes has consequences. If, at the very least, a balanced budget amendment forces government to pay for new spending be it through new taxes or spending cuts, that’s an improvement over the status quo where run-away growth in government is financed by printing money and borrowing from other countries.

There’s something to be said about pricing government appropriately. One reason why there’s so much support for bigger government is that we’re not really paying for a lot of the government we’re getting. The budget deficit for this past year is $1.3 trillion. That’s $1.3 trillion in government we didn’t pay for.

We will pay for it eventually, because one day that debt will have to be paid off (or defaulted on, but that’s a subject for another post), but right now our politicians are free to ring up huge amounts of new because they don’t have to make an argument for tax hikes (or spending cuts) alongside that new spending.

If they were forced to, that would change the dynamic in Washington for the better.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • robert108

    Without a tax rate cap, a balanced budget amendment is a mandate to raise tax rates.  The Dems will demagogue the issue and distract, so that the ballot box will not be effective in restraining tax increases.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I’d rather have a debate about raising taxes than run-away federal spending.

      • robert108

        When you come right down to it, both are equally bad.  I also believe you are pushing a false dichotomy.  The liberal position is that we have to choose between only those two options, but I disagree.  Without a tax rate cap, the balanced budget amendment will essentially mandate tax increases, since the Dems will never agree to cut spending.  So, taxes will be increased, and then the “debate” will be about how to reduce them.  Good luck with that.

  • Neiman

    We amend the Constitution rarely and with good reason – it requires the approval of the people, as in “we the people;” and it usually takes a great deal of time with good reason, as the wording and intent must be absolutely perfect or we can undermine the rest of the Constitution.

  • Senator Curtis Olafson

    The Balanced Budget Amendment would be ineffective.  It leaves all the power in Washington, DC.  Here is a much better solution: http://www.restoringfreedom.or…  The National Debt Relief Amendment has passed in ND and LA with bi-partisan support.  There are currently committed prime sponsors in 14 states, with serious interest from an additional 12 states.  For a comparsion of the NDRA vs the BBA, go to this page from our website: http://www.restoringfreedom.or…  Check it out folks. 

  • Senator Curtis Olafson

    Reposting as the links did not go live on the previous post:

    The Balanced Budget Amendment would be ineffective.  It leaves all the power in Washington, DC.  Here is a much better solution:  http://www.restoringfreedom.org/  The National Debt Relief Amendment has passed in ND and LA with bi-partisan support.  There are currently committed prime sponsors in 14 states, with serious interest from an additional 12 states.  For a comparsion of the NDRA vs the BBA, go to this page from our website: http://www.restoringfreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/NDRA_vs_BBA.pdf  Check it out folks. 

  • SigFan

    It failed in the House – next do nothing coming up.

  • Rick Olson

    I would be in favor of a federal balanced budget constitutional amendment.  Each of the 50 states must live within their means and most states do have amendments in their respective constitutions (North Dakota included) which mandate the state must have a balanced budget and is forbidden from spending at a deficit. 

    So, if the 50 states are required to live within their means, so must the federal government.  I also predict that some form of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution will win the required two-thirds approval of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and then be sent on to the states for ratification.  President Obama’s signature is not required on a constitutional amendment.

    Then three-fourths of the states via their legislatures will have to vote to ratify the amendment within a seven year period in order for it to become a part of the Constitution of the United States.

  • DopeyDem

    Unless there is a provision for not raising taxes, they will go ahead and pound the top earners with tax increases to make it look like they are balancing the budget without cutting spending. This will end up reducing revenue as the top earners have no incentive to actually make more money. Congress will have to raise taxes even further to appear to make up for the difference. This will continue until they have a tax rate of 110%. This has been proven in Cook County, IL with their endless increases in taxes. Revenues fell every year as people went elsewhere for their purchases.

    • http://realitybasedbob.sayanythingblog.com/ realitybasedbob

      Dopey, when would you say America’s highest period of grown took place. It’s ok if you want to list different periods by years.

      • DopeyDem

        Are you really going to make the connection that higher taxes leads to economic development?

        • http://realitybasedbob.sayanythingblog.com/ realitybasedbob

          Dopey, if you don’t know the answer, that’s OK, just say so.

  • Rick Olson

    This topic has become moot.  The U.S. House of Representatives failed to advance a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget.  A proposed constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in favor of the proposed in order for it to advance. 

    The House voted 261-165 Friday for the amendment, 23 votes short of the two-thirds majority required for passage. Voting for passage were 236 Republicans and 25 Democrats, while four Republicans and 161 Democrats opposed the measure.

    Had the measure gotten the two-thirds nod required for passage in the House, its fate would have been much more uncertain in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where 67 votes would have been required for passage and advancing the proposed amendment on to the states for ratification.

  • DopeyDem

    Great, I’ll take every decade before the onset of income taxes.

    • http://realitybasedbob.sayanythingblog.com/ realitybasedbob

      Oh, too bad. Wrong answer.
      Dopey, would you like to guess again?

      • DopeyDem

        Okay, I give. I have better things to do than to run off to DailyKOS to try and find a graph you will use. Still waiting to see how it’s going to relate to higher taxes.

  • http://realitybasedbob.sayanythingblog.com/ realitybasedbob

    Dopey, some would argue that it was the post WW2 era. Can you tell us what the marginal tax rates were during those years? For bonus points tell us how the middle class fared during those years.

  • DopeyDem

    You aren’t really going to try and make the argument that the post WWII boom was created by raising marginal tax rates, are you?

    • http://realitybasedbob.sayanythingblog.com/ realitybasedbob

      Dopey, you’re not really going to try to make the argument that higher marginal tax rates crush economic growth are you?

      • DopeyDem

        Yes, two examples:
        1. Cook County, Illinois
        2. The State of Illinois
        Both have increased taxes on businesses and personal income over the last several years. Cook County has had to roll their increases back because they created less revenue. The State of Illinois is bleeding revenue as businesses and population leave to avoid higher taxes. In both cases, earned income credits were raised to compensate for the tax increases which would by definition call these higher marginal tax rates. 
        Back in your court RBB. Are you still trying to say that higher marginal tax rates lead to economic growth?

        • DopeyDem

          Your silence is deafening. I”m going to end this conversation now. As part of the evil 1%, I have a tee time at this really nice golf course in Florida. TTYL.

  • DopeyDem

    RBB, your silence is deafening. I’m going to end this conversation now. As part of the evil 1%, I have a tee time at this really expensive golf course in Florida. TaTa.

    • http://realitybasedbob.sayanythingblog.com/ realitybasedbob

      Sorry Dopey, I had to see a client and drive out to my office. Darn jack booted weekend capitalism.

  • http://www.pennycapitalist.com Randy Cox The Penny Capitalist

    The balanced budget amendment is just a diversion and an excuse.  The problem is none of the parties have the discipline to spend within a budget.  Even with the amendment, there are loopholes that will allow for deficit spending.  If it passes or doesn’t pass, it still doesn’t provide discipline where there is none.

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