Yesterday I received an email from my U.S. Representative seeking my opinion on a proposed balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Now I realize that a balanced budget amendment sounds like a good idea on the surface and I’m not inherently opposed to it, but I have my concerns and reasons why I believe it’s a waste of time to be fooling with.
I believe that amending the U.S. Constitution is a big deal, it should not be entered into lightly and it should not be resorted to unless all other options have been exhausted. The real concern is that we can fall into a trap of starting to use Constitutional amendments as a means of legislating. Good people fall into this trap when Congress or the courts manage to circumvent laws. We then think that if it were in the Constitution they would have to obey it. But courts and legislatures that lack the character to obey the laws that we already have will be little more inclined to obey a Constitutional amendment. Meanwhile, we cheapen the Constitution whenever we resort to using it as an instrument for legislating.
As for the matter at hand, it seems that when Congress passed the “Budget Control Act of 2011” (aka, the deficit ceiling increase) on August 1st of this year, one of the provisions of the bill was that Congress would hold a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So now, my Congresswoman wants to know my opinion about this – I quote:
“Next week, the U.S. House will consider a Constitutional amendment to require the federal government to balance its budget – just like families and small businesses all across Eastern Washington have to do, plus 49 out of 50 states . . .
Should Congress vote to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution?
- Yes. The national debt is a genuine crisis and a balanced budget amendment is a smart way to force the government to start living within its means.
- No. The national debt isn’t a threat and can be dealt with through other means.”
Sounds good doesn’t it? Sounds like a fiscally responsible legislator out to balance the budget. But here’s the kicker. This same Congresswoman voted “For” the now infamous deficit ceiling increase that authorized up to another $2.4 trillion to be added to the then $14.3 trillion national debt. But it gets better.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 employs amendments to the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act designed to forcibly reduce spending through sequestration should Congress fail to do the job themselves. That 1985 law made spending reductions mandatory and required the budget to be balanced by 1991. That law, apparently still on the books, though often amended, contorted and mutilated, obviously did not work as it has been ignored, avoided and averted ever since it’s adoption.
The point is that I find it downright humorous to think that Congress, in one fell swoop of passing this year’s “Budget Control Act,” both authorized record deficits with one hand and with the other supposedly bound themselves to mandatory spending reductions through the use of a law that they have never in over three decades complied with. Then, in the same bill, they called for a vote on a balanced budget amendment, thus acknowledging right in the text of the bill that they know good and well that they will not be able to bring themselves to comply with the bill’s spending reduction requirements, so “let’s call for a vote on a Constitutional amendment too – maybe we’ll be able to bring ourselves to comply with that.”
I’m sorry, but this sounds like the drunk who every Friday goes out and spends his whole paycheck at the bar only to swear on Monday that he’ll never do it again, but on Friday he’s back at the bar. So next the drunk puts a padlock on his wallet in the hope that it will stop him from spending his paycheck, but he has since taught himself to pick the lock and can still be found at the bar every Friday emptying his wallet. Now he is talking about getting a bigger padlock in the hope that will stop him.
A vote on a balanced budget amendment by this Congress sounds to me like a group of legislators who are intoxicated with spending and know that they can’t stop, but are crying out saying “Someone please stop us before we spend again!”
“To preserve [the] independence [of the people,] we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude.”
(NOTE: The cost of government in the United States now stands at 67% of all that we as Americans produce)