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247 Voices Against a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment

July 13, 2011 at 8:28 PM
BY
CBPP

In a letter released today, the Center joined with 246 other leading national organizations to urge members of Congress to oppose a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  Both the House and Senate are expected to vote on such an amendment next week.  The text of the letter is below; you can see the list of signatories here.

Dear Representative/Senator:

The undersigned national organizations strongly urge you to oppose any balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.

A balanced budget constitutional amendment would damage the economy, not strengthen it.  Demanding that policymakers cut spending and/or raise taxes, even when the economy slows, is the opposite of what is needed to stabilize a weak economy and avert recessions. Such steps would risk tipping a faltering economy into recession or worsening an ongoing downturn, costing large numbers of jobs while blocking worthy investments to stimulate jobs and growth and address the nation’s urgent needs in infrastructure and other areas.

Furthermore, the version of the balanced budget amendment that the House Judiciary Committee recently approved (H. J. Res. 1) would impose an arbitrary and severe cap on total federal spending, which, remarkably, would require much deeper cuts than the draconian cuts in the Ryan budget resolution. The bill also would require supermajority votes in the House and Senate to increase the debt limit, waive the balanced budget requirement — or to raise any taxes, including closing the most egregious tax loopholes.  This irresponsible requirement would create an extremely steep hurdle to raising any revenues — effectively blocking revenue measures even as part of packages to restore long-term solvency to Social Security and Medicare — while protecting the more than $1 trillion a year in “tax expenditures” and forcing severe program cuts.

In short, this amendment is a recipe for making recessions more frequent, longer, and deeper, while requiring severe cuts that would harshly affect seniors, children, veterans, people with disabilities, homeland security activities, public safety, environmental protection, education and medical research.  It would almost certainly necessitate massive cuts to vital programs including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits and other programs, and, as noted, lead to even deeper cuts than the House-passed budget.

A responsible deficit reduction plan must embrace both spending cuts and new revenues, including curbing special-interest tax loopholes, not a one-sided reliance on spending cuts.

A balanced budget amendment has no place in the Constitution of the United States.  Our Constitution has served the nation well because it represents enduring principles that are the foundations of our government.  It should not be used as a substitute for real leadership on fiscal policy.

We strongly urge you to oppose any constitutional balanced budget amendment.