Thursday, January 04, 2018

George F. Will: America Needs A Balanced-Budget Amendment

I'm strongly inclined to agree with Will about this:
Because reverence for the Constitution is imperiled by tinkering with it, and because the supply of ideas for improving Madison’s document always exceeds society’s supply of Madisonian wisdom, the document should be amended rarely and reluctantly. Today, however, a balanced-budget amendment is required to counter two developments: the abandonment of the original understanding of the Constitution and the death of the political morality that expressed that understanding.
I'm also inclined to think this is at least right-ish, though my grasp of the actual history is hazy, at best:
For approximately 140 years, the government was restrained by the Constitution’s enumeration of its powers, which supposedly were “few and defined” (Madison, Federalist 45). Before Congress acted, it considered what James Q. Wilson called the “legitimacy barrier”: Did the Constitution empower the government to do this or that? As late as the 1950s, Congress at least feigned fealty to constitutional limits: When it wanted to build the interstate highway system and subsidize college students, it referred, if perfunctorily, to the enumerated responsibility for defense in naming the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (1956) and the National Defense Education Act (1958). Wilson thought the legitimacy barrier’s collapse was complete in 1965 when Congress intruded into the quintessentially state and local responsibility with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Anyway: I'm way more open to the idea of a balanced-budget amendment than I've ever been before. It's the GOP that's the main offender, too. (IMO the stimulus doesn't count.) I wonder whether the 'Pubs would even still be willing to pass a balanced-budget amendment? I'm actually somewhat sympathetic to the "starve the beast" strategy, since I'm skeptical of halting the expansion of government by other means. But I'd rather not generate crushing debt in the process, if possible.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Jared Bernstein, former chief economist to Joe Biden, has some smart things to say about budget deficits:

10:20 AM  

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