Quantcast
Opinion

One way to bind the spenders is a constitutional amendment

Comments

Return To Article
  • Kent C. DeForrest Provo, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 9:07 a.m.

    Will makes a few good points here. Unfortunately, he omits the most significant reason why a balanced budget amendment is a terrible idea: In times of recession, the government needs to step in with spending and stimulus to prevent the recession from going into a death spiral and ending up in a full-blown depression. A balanced-budget amendment would prevent such government intervention. And a balanced-budget amendment that allows such exceptions is, as the Republican hardliners would put it, a BBAINO.

    Balancing a budget is crucial for a business. But for a government that has to watch over the health of an entire economy? Hardly. Come back to reality, George.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 9:32 a.m.

    Re: "This [politician/bureaucrat] class can be constrained, if at all, not by exhorting them to become disinterested but by binding them with a constitutional amendment."

    Hear, hear!

    [with apologies to William F. Buckley] Real Americans would sooner live in a society governed by the first 535 names in the telephone directory than in a society governed by the 535 members Congress. Liberal politicians have demonstrated time and time again, they cannot be trusted with the Nation's purse strings.

    Not even the force of law may be enough, but, at least, it's a start.

  • Badgerbadger Murray, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 10:12 a.m.

    Those who get all the benefits are constantly duped by those who are the ultimate power seekers, the government leaders (especially the chief executive), who pretend to be benevolent, but are actually just trying garner all the power to themselves.

    Having encountered these serfs, who take crumbs from the government and think it is kindness, I don't know how we can ever get non-emperor types elected without mass anesthesia.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 10:25 a.m.

    We constantly hear the GOP -- and our own Uncle Orrin -- calling for a balanced budget amendment. But when they have the chance, what do they do?

    Nothing.

    Why?

    Because it would cramp their spending sprees. Look at which party has actually spent the most historically.

    Hint: It's not the ones with the donkey.

  • Eric Samuelsen Provo, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 10:38 a.m.

    Kent DeForest is right; a constitutional amendment would preclude the possibility of stimulative spending in times of recession. I would add that the track record of deficit spending is quite remarkable.
    Through deficit spending, the North defeated the South in the Civil War, ending slavery forever.
    Through deficit spending, the New Deal mitigated the worst aspects of the Great Depression and allowed our economy to recover.
    Through deficit spending, we defeated Hitler.
    In times of national emergency, the federal government needs to have the power to borrow and spend.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 11:34 a.m.

    The most pressing need for a Constitutional amendment would be:

    Government payments to individual citizens, such as but not limited to, Social Security, wages, pensions, health care, and other basic human needs shall be paid prior to any payments to business, financial or other organized groups.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 11:47 a.m.

    No Republican who supports a balanced budgetamendment has actually produced a sample budget that would comply with its terms. The Ryan budget certainly doesn't. When I see a budget that complies, I'll start taking these proposals seriously. Until it's just a show to entertain the low information voters.

  • Mark B Eureka, CA
    Feb. 7, 2013 12:15 p.m.

    Suppose Proc's dream came true, and an amendment mandating a balanced budget was passed. Does that mean he would be the one to tell Grandma she could come and live with his family now, or would he be the one to tell her that he'd pay all her medical bills from now on?

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 12:56 p.m.

    It's said that the sequester would cost us a million jobs and slow the recovery. The sequester is only about 1/4 the deficit. We want to do that x4? Do you want us to enter a depression?

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 1:21 p.m.

    Re: "Look at which party has actually spent the most historically. Hint: It's not the ones with the donkey."

    Even if that were true -- which it decidedly is not -- so what?

    By this analysis, each side would get a pass on deranged spending until its deranged spending level surpasses the deranged spending levels of the other.

    That's not a valid budgeting strategy.

    And, every proposal for a balanced budget amendment I've seen includes a clause for emergency, wartime spending.

    Of course that would be abused by committed tax-and-spend liberals, but, at least it's a start.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 1:22 p.m.

    Re: "Suppose Proc's dream came true . . . he would be the one to tell Grandma she could come and live with his family now . . . ?"

    So, our budget woes are Grandma's fault? She's the one standing in the way of fiscal sanity?

    I'll bet your Grandma would be embarrassed for you.

  • DougS Oakley, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 1:42 p.m.

    Any elementary school graduate knows there are two ways to balance a budget: Raise taxes, or, reduce spending. So, what would an amendment to the constitution accomplish? A license for Congress to raise taxes each time they fail to control spending! Sematpr Lee from Utah proposes an amendment that would limit spending to a percentage of the GDP.. I'd like to see that proposal before endorsing any "Balanced Budget" amendment.

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 1:47 p.m.

    This column is simply more proof, as if more were necessary, that Mr. Will well and truly is no longer the the sensible voice of sensible conservatism.

    Fiscal discipline and deficit control are great goals. The actual budget trends and federal budgets as a % of GDP prove that President Obama has done a far better job at being a fiscal conservative than any Republican president in 50 years.

    You know perfectly well that the instant anyone attempts to create a balanced budget that leaves us with anything resembling a functioning nation they face an inescapable need for steep cuts to defense spending, steep cuts to myriad federal and state programs that are hugely and justifiably popular with the public, and the need to significantly increase revenues.

    Tell you what - when George Will offers his vision of a balanced budget, THEN I'll take him seriously.

    Until then, however, his decline into the political equivalent of "the grumpy old guy next door who sits on his front porch and shouts threats at kids walking past his house" continues unabated.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Feb. 7, 2013 1:56 p.m.

    Republicans don't really want a BB amendment. They just talk about it. It would restrict their capacity to make war. Mike Lee is blowing smoke: the minute the GOP needs a war to satisfy its vast military-industrial base, the BB goes out the window. A permanent state of war means no BB ever.

  • Res Novae Ashburn, VA
    Feb. 7, 2013 1:56 p.m.

    I could get behind it if it is carefully drafted to allow exceptions for economic or political crises. To do otherwise is to "lose" every major American war, all of which have relied on deficit spending. And you don't have to be a Keynesian to understand the need to inject short-term liquidity into a market that's contracting sharply.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 3:09 p.m.

    Re: ". . . actual budget trends and federal budgets as a % of GDP prove that President Obama has done a far better job at being a fiscal conservative . . . ."

    In BizarroWorld, maybe.

    National debt is now above $16.4T -- 100% of GDP. More than $5T of that is attributable to the President and his deranged spending policy.

    And, it'll only get worse, since 40% of the regime's current spending is borrowed. Estimates range as high as $28T by the end of the second regime.

    And remember, this is just the phony figure politicians will admit to. Add in unfunded liabilities -- promises Congress has made, but has yet to fund -- and we're already somewhere north of $100T, 6 years of GDP.

    Our debt has been nowhere near that since FDR and WWII, when it was a measly $259B. Even that took us 30 years to crawl out from under.

    It'll be interesting to hear your explanation of how that shows the President has "done a far better job at being a fiscal conservative" than Republicans for the last 50 years.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 4:09 p.m.

    @procuradorfiscal
    "In BizarroWorld, maybe."

    2009, a Bush fiscal year (the budget period for 2009 starts Oct. 2008), though influenced by Obama, had a deficit of 1.4 trillion. 2012 had a deficit of 1.1 trillion. This year we're projected (though the projection assumes the sequester or similar levels of cuts will actually occur) to have a deficit below 1 trillion. We actually currently have the fastest 3 year annual deficit reduction at any point since the post WWII deescalation.

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 7, 2013 7:30 p.m.

    procuradorfiscal:

    "In BizarroWorld, maybe."

    It's called reality.

    Analyses of the debt incurred since 2009 point to two primary sources:

    1) Bush's tax cuts, and
    2) Bush's credit-card wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Any politician who voted for the tax cuts and for the unfunded wars, and who now thumps their chest about a balanced budget amendment, deserves to arrested on a charge of Aggravated Hypocrisy.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Feb. 8, 2013 7:03 a.m.

    From the article:

    "The political class is incorrigible because it is composed of — let us say the worst — human beings. They respond to incentives of self-interest. Their acquisitiveness is not for money but for the currency of power, which they act to retain and enlarge. This class can be constrained, if at all, not by exhorting them to become disinterested but by binding them with a constitutional amendment."

    If that is true (and I do not believe it to be true of all of our elected officials) then there is no hope. No piece of paper would constrain such men and women. Our cause is lost.

  • John20000 Cedar Hills, UT
    Feb. 8, 2013 8:48 a.m.

    My balanced budget amendment would read something like this "Don't spend money you don't have and pay off your debts."

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Feb. 8, 2013 10:35 a.m.

    "Conservatives intentionally destroyed the remnants of the implicit balanced budget constraint in the 1970s so they could cut taxes without having to cut spending at the same time....they concocted a theory, “starve the beast,” to maintain a fig leaf of fiscal responsibility.

    Under this theory, deficits are intentionally created by tax cuts, which puts political pressure on Congress to cut spending. Thus, cutting taxes without cutting spending became the epitome of conservative fiscal policy. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.

    We gave starve-the-beast theory a test during the Reagan administration, but, when push came to shove, Reagan was always willing to raise taxes rather than allow deficits to get out of control.

    We gave starve-the-beast theory another test during the H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations. They both raised taxes and, according to the theory, this should have caused spending to rise, because tax increases feed the beast. But they didn’t. Spending as a share of GDP fell to 18.2% in 2000 from 22.3% in 1991, according to the CBO.

    Another test happened during the Bush administration. Taxes were slashed, but spending rose again."
    (Bruce Bartlett)

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Feb. 8, 2013 10:55 a.m.

    "Conservatives intentionally destroyed the remnants of the implicit balanced budget constraint in the 1970s so they could cut taxes without having to cut spending at the same time....they concocted a theory, “starve the beast,” to maintain a fig leaf of fiscal responsibility.

    Under this theory, deficits are intentionally created by tax cuts, which puts political pressure on Congress to cut spending. Thus, cutting taxes without cutting spending became the epitome of conservative fiscal policy. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.

    We gave starve-the-beast theory a test during the Reagan administration, but, when push came to shove, Reagan was always willing to raise taxes rather than allow deficits to get out of control.

    We gave starve-the-beast theory another test during the H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations. They both raised taxes and, according to the theory, this should have caused spending to rise, because tax increases feed the beast. But they didn’t. Spending as a share of GDP fell to 18.2% in 2000 from 22.3% in 1991, according to the CBO.

    Another test happened during the Bush administration. Taxes were slashed, but spending rose again."
    (Bruce Bartlett)