Is A Balanced Budget Amendment A Bad Deal For Republicans?

Conservatives should remember, as Byron York points out, that raising the national debt cap is a given. The question is what Republicans can leverage out of Democrats in exchange for going along with raising the cap.

May conservatives such as Senators Rand Paul and Jim DeMint want a balanced budget amendment in exchange for their votes with DeMint going so far as to say that he’ll filibuster an increase unless a BBA is passed too.

But would a BBA be a good bargain for Republicans in exchange for raising the debt cap? Ed Morrissey writing at The Week says no.

Here are his points:

1) Constitutional amendments are hard to do, and take years to pass. Even if it gets through Congress this year, it must be ratified by the various state legislatures which will take additional years.

2) Even if the amendment passes, and the government must begin matching expenditures to revenues, the largest part of our national expenditures is entitlements. As Morrissey points out, even if we eliminated every penny of discretionary spending in the budget we’d still be left with a deficit well over $300 billion from entitlement spending alone.

In summary, Morrissey argues that a BBA wouldn’t have the effect of law until years from now even if the stars align and it passes, and that even after it passes we’ll still be forced with doing something about entitlements. And Morrissey argues that “something” will likely be tax hikes.

I’d point out that the BBA being supported by Senators Rand Paul and Jim DeMint would require a 2/3’s majority to pass tax hikes, but his other points are well taken. We need spending reform now, not years from now, and there are no assurances that the states (always hungry for federal money) will ratify a BBA.

That being said, what other choices are there? Morrissey says Republicans should make entitlement spending reform their price tag for raising the national debt instead of a BBA. That might make sense, but if a BBA were to pass wouldn’t it force the hand of politicians who, if left to their own devices, would do nothing about entitlement spending?

What’s really gumming up the works is the shallow, immature politics that surround entitlements. Anyone suggesting any sort of entitlement reform that reduces outlays for the programs is immediately vilified as one who hates the sick, the children and the elderly. The opponents of entitlement reform, generally, behave themselves like spoiled children in a toy store being told they can’t have a new dolly.

Tackling the issue is political kryptonite.

Constitutional amendment or not, I don’t think we can fix the entitlements problem until we start acting like adults as a nation.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of 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.

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