On the Balanced Budget Amendment

by Ramesh Ponnuru

I write about one of its flaws at Bloomberg today.


When pressed on the enforcement question, proponents sometimes say that a sense of shame will keep Congress from violating the amendment. (Really, that’s what they say.) The Senate Judiciary Committee made a similar point in a 1993 report on a proposed amendment: “In their campaigns for re-election, elected officials who flout their responsibilities under this amendment will find that the political process will provide the ultimate enforcement mechanism.”

If shame and political pressure could solve our debt woes, they already would have. If the budget is unbalanced, any future congressman will be able to say that he supports a remedy: cutting this or that program or raising taxes. There’s nothing in the amendment that would force congressmen to agree on just which solution to adopt, or to pass any of them. Instead of blaming one another just for deficits, they would blame one another for deficits and for violating the Constitution.

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