On the heels of an unpaid-for $1.3 trillion spending binge, House Republicans have announced they plan to—I’m not making this up—push for a balanced budget amendment (BBA) when they return from recess. This only proves there is no low to which the GOP will not stoop as it continues to insult the intelligence of its voter base.
The real strategy to pass a BBA, as happened with Obamacare, will most likely be to hold empty, meaningless roll call votes on measures that have no hope of passing and which the GOP has no plan to carry out. Then a Republican lawmaker can tell voters in the fall: “Look, we tried to do something about federal spending, but the Democrats voted against the balanced budget amendment.”
Here’s why the GOP’s move to prioritize BBAs should be perceived as the duplicitous pandering and vacuous virtue signaling that it is: first, there’s the timing. This gesture comes just after lawmakers from both parties passed a broad, two-year budget framework that blows up the budget caps imposed in 2011, and will lead to trillions in spending each and every year henceforth, with interest payments on the massive federal debt set to outpace the cost of the military and the cost of Medicaid in just eight years. Voting for gargantuan spending of this size and then claiming to support a balanced budget amendment is like gorging on a sumptuous feast while insisting that you want a svelte physique.
The other reason voters should not take the Republican call for a BBA seriously is that even in the best of times it is almost impossible to pass an amendment to the Constitution. A balanced-budget amendment would require the support of two-thirds majorities in both the House and the Senate, in addition to the backing of three quarters of the states. That’s an almost impossible lift, which is why only 27 amendments to the Constitution have ever been ratified.
Nevertheless, calls for BBAs have been popular since the 1980s, and gained particular steam from conservatives in 2010 with the Tea Party movement. The idea sounds deceptively simple: a balanced budget amendment would require that the government spend no more than it takes in during any given year.
But even if by some miracle one was ratified, a balanced budget amendment is a blunt instrument that wouldn’t necessarily be effective. That’s because during recessions and economic downturns, the government has to spend more on things like nutritional assistance and unemployment benefits. With a BBA in place, Congress would be unable to do so, resulting in something like sequestration on steroids.
Full column by Barbara Boland @ The American Conservative http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-gops-laughable-call-for-a-balanced-budget-amendment/