Patt Morrison for August 22, 2011

The balanced budget amendment: what could be wrong about requiring a balanced federal budget?

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Tea Party supporters gather at a rally held by Americans for Prosperity to see former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speak at the Wisconsin State Capitol April 16, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin.

On the surface it seems so logical that it’s not even worthy of a debate: of course the federal government should be constitutionally required to balance its budget each year. As with most things in Washington, it’s not always that easy.

The balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been discussed for decades but in this age of austerity and serious discussion about cutting and eventually eliminating annual budget deficits, the amendment looks more attractive than ever. Republicans realize this and plan on making the balanced budget amendment a key part of their policy push when Congress reconvenes in September.

The idea behind the amendment is simple: require that Congress and the president pass a budget that does not spend more than it takes in, hence keeping it balanced. The process, though, is far from simple, requiring a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress as well as the approval of three-quarters of the states for the amendment to be placed onto the Constitution.

The details and impacts of a balanced budget amendment become even more complex: the Republican version of the amendment contains a provision that requires a super-majority in Congress to raise taxes; Democrats argue that the amendment would so badly hamstring actions of the government that it could affect the country’s ability to fight a war, respond to natural disasters or implement drastic measures in the face of a deep economic crisis.

Guest Host Nick Roman spoke to the architect of the amendment and asked what could be wrong about requiring a balanced budget.

Guest:

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia’s 6th District; member of the House Judiciary Committee; author of H.J. Res 1, a three-part balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution


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