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Balanced Budget Amendment

The following amendment provides two rules Congress is intended to obey, the second rule taking effect when the first rule is violated. If the second rule is violated, the final consequences are triggered as an enforcement mechanism.

  • The budget deficit as measured at the end of each year should be smaller each year than it was in the previous year, or the budget should be balanced.
  • When the measured budget deficit goes up instead of down, a clock starts ticking. Within six years, the budget must be balanced.
  • If the six years pass, and the budget does not come into balance, then all members of the House and Senate who served in each of the six years while the clock was ticking must stand down at the end of their current term, and may not run for office or serve in any capacity as a government employee, lobbyist, consultant, etc. for a period of one year after their term expires.

As you can see, this amendment is short and sweet, and contains none of the problems those who object to balanced budget amendments are constantly bringing up.

It is based on a real measured number, not fuzzy estimates. Congress may have to rely on short term estimates to set the budget they hope will comply, but good intentions are not enough. Only the measured deficit counts, the projections are just a tool to get there.

It won't throw the budget into the hands of the federal courts, because it doesn't require the budget to balance, it just says we get some new members of Congress after a sufficiently protracted period of deficit spending.

It doesn't require the budget to balance every year. It allows for up to six years of increasing deficits without imposing any penalties, but it does say that Congress must pay the price for sustained deficits. Six years seems like a reasonable number since even the great depression didn't have any six years of economic decline in a row.

Most importantly, it has real consequences each and every member of Congress will face if they fail to control deficits. If this amendment were to be ratified, Congress would be faced with certain loss of job if they continue to borrow and spend, versus only a possible loss of job if they offend the voters by cutting services or raising taxes. And voters might actually respond to straight talk about the necessity of paying for things you want (most people have heard and understood the phrase "it would be nice, but we can't afford it" at some point in their life).

And I am aware it contains no exceptions for wars or other emergencies. If any emergency that dire faces the nation, I expect members of Congress to be willing to face term limits if they have to (after all, they are asking kids to go into battle and give up their lives - they can give up a little too).

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Page last modified Mon Nov 24 22:23:21 1997