Sunday, July 17, 2011

The BBA is Not the Answer

Brian Darling of The Heritage Foundation, wrote a report which they published on 7/14/2011; called, "The House and Senate Balanced Budget Amendments: Not All Balanced Budget Amendments Are Created Equal". He states that each house of Congress is planning on taking up discussion on their respective versions of a BBA during the week of 7/18/2011. The Senate appears to be leaning towards S.J. Res. 23. The House appears to be leaning towards H.J. Res. 1. With there being multiple versions of BBAs in each house, at least they each appear to be picking one to discuss. This step lets us be more specific, also.

The report compares these two versions and prints the content of each. It can be found here:

After reading both proposals, it is clear the House version is less specific and in some instances it has less restrictions.

Each contains provisions for the BBA to not apply in specific years: when both houses vote to to exclude a year, when war is declared, or when the US is engaged in a military conflict that poses an imminent and serious threat to national security. In the House version, during a time of military conflict, (with a majority vote) the amendment would be waived; including Section 5, which requires a 2/3 vote to increase revenues (taxes).

This means, since the US is involved in a military conflict just about each and every year (if the House version were to be ratified); a simple majority vote would stop there from being a requirement for a balanced budget and would allow excess spending in unrestricted areas of government (not just the military conflict), and it would allow for tax increases without the higher threshold of a 2/3 vote. Witnessing the high moral standard of our government over the past several years, does anyone believe that it is beyond them to actually send our troops to fight on some distant soil so that they can spend more at home?

It is noted that the BBA is being held out by conservatives in Congress as one of the main issues they demand in order to vote to rasie the debt ceiling. They make it sound like this will solve our problems if they each vote to pass a compromised bill. Even if both pass the same bill, it is then sent to the 50 states to see if 3/4 will vote to ratify this as an amendment to the Constitution. When and if it ever takes effect would depend on that being accomplished.

The very earliest that either version could take effect is for the fiscal year of 2017, and it is very probable it would be later than that. Neither one would accomplish anything to help us right now. If both houses of Congress passed the Senate version of a BBA this year and the states were given the typical seven years to debate and ratify the proposed amendment, the BBA states it would take effect in the fifth fiscal year following ratification. 2011+7+5=2023.

What are they thinking? How is that going to help us here and now? How is trading the Congress passing on a BBA, which will not take effect until 2017-2023; in excange for raising the debt ceiling now, going to make things better? We have $14.4 trillion in national debt, right now. Obama’s proposed budget for 2012 adds another $1.6 trillion. At this rate, by the time any BBA could do anything, we will be looking at a debt of around $20 trillion.

There are many constitutional issues raised concerning the BBA by Publius Huldah in her articles on Canada Free Press: and also here:

Both the Senate and House versions include the provision that the president must submit a budget. Up until now, the Constitution places the obligation to determine spending on the House, not the president. This would fundamentally transfer the responsibility over from the House to the president. They are also worded in a way that seems to make the only issue being the limited amount of total expenditures. There are no provisions dealing with spending on unconstitution programs, etc. It makes it sound like, as long as the president proposes a budget which he claims is not over 18% of our economy and that he claims that he has revenue to meet that level of spending, we should all be very happy.

I believe that Congress will pass some version of a BBA. The Right and Left will each use it as a political accomplishment during the upcoming campaign. We will have to take up the fight on the state level. We will have to learn the facts and be able to teach those to others. We will have to do the work to stop this BBA monster window dressing from becoming an amendment.

Remember, if Congress was so concerned about having a balanced budget, they could just write one right now. The Constitution already gives the House the power to deal with this issue. Stop meeting with the President to get his approval. Stop seeking his leadership. Do not compromise or give-in. Just do your job and cut spending, drastically, now. Just go back to the hill and pass a reasonable budget in the House, now. And, do not trade raising the debt limit as a trade-off for passing a BBA.

As to the rest of us, do not be fooled by the great sounding title – Balanced Budget Amendment. We would all love to have an actual budget that is balanced, that is not the issue. We want to use our current Constitution, where the House is responsible for spending measures, to get the hard work done NOW!

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