Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Do We Need Balanced-Budget Amendment? Plan Is a `Feel Good' Proposal That Could Undermine the Economy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Do We Need Balanced-Budget Amendment? Plan Is a `Feel Good' Proposal That Could Undermine the Economy

Article excerpt

The proposed constitutional amendment would require that the federal budget be balanced annually by the year 2001 - whether the economy is weak or strong, whether the nation be plagued by God-made disasters or international crises - unless three-fifths of the whole membership in both houses votes to waive the requirement in any one year.

No enforcement mechanism is suggested; Congress will do the enforcing.

The amendment's supporters claim that, whereas Congress and the president have lacked the will to make hard choices and take the political risks needed to balance the budget, a constitutional amendment would force the two branches to do so.

It is ironic that this confession of pusillanimity comes from the same senators today who in 2001 will be called upon to cut the programs and raise the taxes necessary to balance the budget. The budget will not balance itself, no matter what the Constitution says, and balancing the budget must still be done by the same people with the same biases and political motives who manage the budget today.

Why not begin now, rather than wait seven years, by which time the national debt will have increased by another $2 trillion? Obviously, the proposal is nothing more than a "feel good" amendment, which is seductively attractive, doesn't reduce the budget by one thin dime and promises results that will prove illusory.

The three-fifths waiver requirement would dilute the voting strength of small and rural states in the House of Representatives, where the states are not equal, and minority rule would be enthroned in both houses on budget and fiscal matters.

This amendment is a bad idea. If it were not enforced, the people's reverence for the Constitution would be seriously undermined and cynicism toward government would grow.

Conversely, if the amendment were enforced, turbulent economic and social results would ensue. …

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