Balanced budget message should be preached to choir

Friday, February 5, 2021

Sen. Deb Fischer and her Republican colleagues should be commended for their resolution, unlikely as it is to be successful, proposing a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.

Unless the national debt is brought under control, so much of the federal budget will go toward interest on the debt that there will be little left to pay for important government expenditures.

Pushing aside “prime-the-pump” Keynesian economics, Fischer’s proposed constitutional amendment would:

-- Prohibit total outlays from exceeding total receipts unless 2/3 of members in both houses provide by law for the specific excess.

-- Prohibit federal spending from exceeding 18% of gross domestic product (GDP) unless 2/3 of members in both houses provide by law for the specific excess.

-- Require the President to submit a budget each year that meets the aforementioned criteria.

-- Require two-thirds majority votes in the House and Senate for any bill to raise taxes

-- Require a new three-fifths majority vote in Congress to raise the debt limit

Sen. Fischer joins Sens Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) in introducing the amendment.

It’s not surprising no Democrats joined in the resolution, and to be fair, President Trump oversaw less than half the growth in the national debt of his predecessor, 33.62% to nearly 70% for Barack Obama. Yes, there was a tax cut, but the COVID economic bailout drove much of Trump’s deficit, which pushed the national debt to $27 trillion, while Obama’s bailout went to help financial institutions survive the 2008 Great Recession, leaving the U.S. $20 trillion in debt.

Both were slackers compared to FDR, who saw the national debt climb by more than 1,000%, but perhaps the fact he had to deal with the Great Depression and World War II can put things into perspective. The national debt was “only” $259 billion when FDR died.

Just goes to confirm the conventional wisdom that Democrats are spend-thrifts while the GOP is more financially responsible, right?

Let’s look back at a few presidents. The last president to submit a balanced budget -- admittedly on his way out of office -- was none other than William Jefferson Clinton, who saw national debt climb by more than 31% in his time in office.

How have other Democrats done?

Jimmy Carter saw a 43% increase in national debt, Lyndon Johnson 16%, John F. Kennedy 6% and Harry S Truman, 3%.

And Republicans?

Under George W. Bush, the national debt went up $105%, his father saw it go up 54%, Ronald Reagan nearly doubled it at 186%, Gerald Ford 47%, Dwight Eisenhower 9% and Herbert Hoover 33%.

Tax cuts are popular with voters, but somehow the promised economic benefits never seem to put the federal budget into the black.

Perhaps Fischer and other proponents of a balanced budget amendment should spend more time preaching to the choir.

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