Discuss the possibility of a balanced budget amendment.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Given the current discussion about the increase of the debt ceiling, the issue of a balanced budget amendment is a viable one.  Its attributes are fairly evident in that the controlling of government spending and the mandating of ensuring that expenses and expenditures can be paid are effective and quite relevant.  A large number of Americans support the idea, evident in the number of politicians who have seized it as a credible political issue with mileage.  The reality is that in the past month, the House of Representatives rejected an amendment to the Constitution that would mandate a balanced budget.  The vote broke down on partisan lines, as the Republicans seemed to advocate for its passage, while the Democrats voted against it.  There is a real and valid voice for such a measure, as articulated by Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte from Virginia:

The American people are demanding action...They know that it is crucial we rein in the skyrocketing deficit spending that is discouraging investment and threatening to bankrupt our nation.

Yet, the opposing point of view, as articulated by Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. of Illinois brings to light why the measure might never be realized, at least in the current economic condition in which America is immersed:

I am addicted to saving lives. I am addicted to making sure that Social Security is not violently cut by the balanced budget amendment.

This ends up being where the debate lies.  In the end, the Balanced Budget Amendment proposal is being framed as one in which the cutting of entitlement programs that are assisting millions of Americans will become the casualty of such a measure.  Adding to that the fact that these programs are critical to those who have been hit hard by the recent economic downturn brings to light how the measure, itself, will face an uphill battle.  If the economy improves, it will be argued that such entitlement programs were essential to the bounceback, justifying their protection which would otherwise not be sustained in a balanced budget amendment.  If the economy does not, these programs' presence will be pointed to as critical in preventing further economic chaos.  I think that this is where the challenge in amending the Constitution to include a balanced budget amendment lies, making it a bit of a removed possibility.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The other troubling impracticality associated with this topic is that to balance the budget would require cutting hundreds of billions in spending in very short order, perhaps in one budget cycle.  Taking that much federal spending out of infrastructure projects, defense spending, social programs and state and local grants would have a much more adverse effect on the economy than some additional debt.

A balanced budget requirement would also not allow the country to respond to national emergencies such as war or disasters as the imbalanced budgets would be unconstitutional.  Given how much aid they would likely lose, it would be difficult to get 3/4 of the states to ratify such an amendment too.

daksattack | Student

I feel that the US Government should have a balanced budget; but, cannot afford such a luxury. While it sounds good in theory, the requirement of a balanced budget would simply cost taxpayers more money because then the Government would need more money and therefore would raise taxes. For example, the reason that some states require license plates on front and back is to increase revenue, one state that has both requirements is Texas and they adopted the license plates law just after passing balanced budget. For these reasons, the US should NOT have a balanced budget.

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