Congress should also realize that a balanced budget amendment, even if it passed Congress, would have no chance of ratification by 38 states. The states have allowed themselves to become heavily dependent on federal handouts. They understand that a balanced federal budget will sharply reduce those handouts, forcing them to make painful decisions to cut services or raise taxes. They will refuse to place themselves in such political danger.
The amendments do include one useful feature, a requirement that the president submit a balanced budget each year. That requirement can and should be enacted as legislation immediately. Even if Congress has no intention of balancing the budget in the near future (and it is abundantly clear that most Members of Congress have no such intention), beginning each year’s budget process from a point of balance would promote just the debate that America needs. Congress would be compelled to discuss what should be added to the president’s budget and why it is so important that it justifies deficit spending.
This type of debate over national priorities is what has been missing, with both sides making long-term projections that provide little in the way of specifics. We need to cut more than $1 trillion of spending, and we should immediately begin an honest discussion about which $1 trillion in the budget is least important.
Howard Phillips is chairman of the Conservative Caucus.