The Texas Plan, Part II

The second proposed amendment is one that has been hugely popular with states as a proposal -- there are almost enough states demanding it to force the Constitutional convention on this point alone.
II. Require Congress to balance its budget.
The only thing that I can think to say against this is that the amendment might need a waiver for high emergencies such as wars. Of course, any waiver can be abused, and is likely to be. Still, you can't always fight a war on a budget, and some wars are necessary for the survival of the nation. Those of you who are Keynesians may wish to see this extended to business cycle events, although the evidence of the last decade should probably cause us to re-examine the validity of Lord Keynes' theories on that point.


raven said...

It does not matter what Congress is told, ordered, demanded, etc- the question is WHO is going to enforce it? We are already covered with a blanket of obvious blatantly unconstitutional laws, which the courts have approved.

E Hines said...

No waiver needed. And hard balancing would not be useful. I'd require the trailing five-year moving average be at or below the five-year moving average of Federal revenues. This would allow temporary excursions, while requiring the excursions to be made good promptly. On declaration of a national or regional emergency by the President, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader jointly, the limit on spending could be waived entirely until the emergency has ended, following which spending must be strictly less than revenues annually until the emergency-driven excess has been made good.

Still short and sweet, but with suitable flexibility built in.

Nonetheless, my caveat outlined in an earlier thread remains: to have effect this needs a government populated by men and women who will obey the Constitution. And that's on us.

Eric Hines

Elise said...

It seems to me that a push for a Constitutional convention and, if the convention happens, a spirited debate on Abbott’s amendments would be useful as an educational tool. If there are many citizens who don’t know or don’t care about Federal overreach this is a way to bring it to their attention and, with luck, get them to think about what kind of government they want.

As for the question of whether this is worthwhile given that any such amendments will be chipped away at again, two points. First, the Constitution is a firewall designed to keep the Federal government in check. The firewall has been breached. I think it’s worth the effort to rebuild the firewall. Yes, there will always be hackers and, yes, it will be breached again but one does what one can, accepting that the firewall will have to be rebuilt again and again.

Second, the Federal government didn’t overreach in one huge bound. The Courts said that it was okay for the Commerce Clause to be stretched a little, to do A. Then the next time around, the Courts said, well, the Commerce Clause allows A so it’s not a big deal for it to allow B. Then C, then D, and now who knows how far we are in the alphabet or if we’ve sailed past Z into uncharted waters. Similarly, the Federal budget got unbalanced by a small amount, then a bigger amount, then a still bigger amount, and so on.

There will always be a need for judgement calls in looking at things like the Commerce Clause and for exceptions in looking at things like the Federal budget. But amending the Constitution with a new Commerce Clause resets the powers to zero, so to speak (or whatever comes before A in the alphabet). The Courts can’t use old Commerce Clause decisions to justify new, more expansive ones. And establishing a new Commerce Clause and some type of balanced budget amendment serve notice on Congress, the President, and the Courts that the citizens’ patience is at an end.

Which brings me full circle to my last point. If a push for a Constitutional convention fails or if the convention happens but none of these amendments are passed then at least conservatives will know where they (we) stand. Conservatives can give up their belief/hope that there is a silent majority that really wants a limited Federal government, true dual Federalism, and robust States’ rights. I don’t know what that would mean in the long term but in the short term we could all stop thinking that surely, in this next election, if we could just find the right man (or woman) on a horse, the electorate will wake up and smell the overreach.

Dad29 said...

As to Keynes, he was FIRMLY in favor of paying down Gummint debt in good times, too. But that part of his work seems to have gone down the memory hole.

Cassandra said...

I'm not in favor of a strict balanced budget requirement. Businesses, households, and nations all need to invest in the future from time to time, and need to take out loans to do so.

It would be idiotic to pass a law that requires businesses or households never to spend more than they take in - ever, for any reason. Doesn't make much more sense for government to do so.

I would strongly favor an amendment that prohibited borrowing to pay routine, recurring expenses. This is generally how people, businesses, and nations get into debt trouble: when you have to borrow to pay every day bills you already knew were coming, you've lost control of your finances. Perhaps some kind of rider that would require existing debt to be paid down when there's a surplus before that surplus could be spent on anything else would be a good idea, too.

Ymar Sakar said...

To evil, a waiver that allows unbalanced budgets in a war is license and authorization to start a war whenever you don't want to balance your budget.

That's how it works.