It’s a bit ironic to hear Democrat Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp say that she supports a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution. This is typically a Republican issue, though it’s been clear that Heitkamp seems intent on eschewing her past as a cheerleader for Obamacare and campaign like a Republican this cycle. But more than that, the Democrat Heitkamp hopes to replace in the Senate, Kent Conrad, was twice the pivotal vote on a balanced budget amendment and twice decided against it.
Conrad, who is nominally in favor of balanced budgets, could always find some niggling objection to balanced budget amendments with which to justify his opposition. So when I read that Heitkamp is in favor of a balanced budget amendment, but with exceptions, it makes me think that she’s just Kent Conrad all over again. Someone who will talk a big game about fiscal responsibility, but will find excuses to avoid it when it comes to making a real decision.
FARGO – Democrat Heidi Heitkamp delivered a few campaign pledges today about what she’d do to promote budget control if she’s elected to the U.S. Senate.
Specifically, Heitkamp said she would support a form of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, along with other cuts to congressional office spending.
“Where in the past, I haven’t always been a big fan of amending the Constitution to take care of things that legislators and public servants can do all on their own … I’ve been persuaded in the last year,” Heitkamp said in a conference call with state and national reporters.
The problem with Heitkamp’s stance is that she wants to exempt war time and entitlement spending from balanced budgets:
However, Heitkamp said she would want some flexibility in requiring a balanced budget, so exceptions could be made in the case of wartime and entitlement spending.
In supporting such a measure, Heitkamp said she wants to exempt Social Security and Medicare, so there’s no impact on those spending obligations.
What Heitkamp wants is a balanced budget amendment that wouldn’t actually address our nation’s biggest spending problems, which are entitlements.
If we cut every single penny of discretionary spending – the only sort of spending Heitkamp wants her proposed balanced budget amendment to apply to – including highway spending, military spending, national parks spending, etc., etc. but left entitlement spending alone we’d still be running a budget deficit.
The much anticipated Ryan budget set to be introduced in Congress would lower discretionary spending to $1.028 trillion. This is lower than $1.047 limit for discretionary spending cuts agreed to in the debt deal last year, which is something that has Senator Conrad angry. But whether discretionary spending is set at $1.028 trillion or $1.047 trillion, the fact of the matter is that both those figures are hundreds of billions lower than the entire federal budget deficit for the next FY which is projected by the CBO to be over $1.3 trillion.
Spending on Social Security, Medicare and interest on the national debt alone is $2.3 trillion.
What Heitkamp is proposing wouldn’t fix anything because it doesn’t address the nation’s largest spending problem, which is entitlement spending.