Commentary

Democrats Quick to Attack Balanced Budget Amendment

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With voters last November resoundingly supporting fiscally conservative candidates who campaigned on reducing government spending, Democrats would be wise to recognize the message sent at ballot boxes across Maine: Cut government waste.

At the very least, Democrats would be smart to remain open-minded to ideas and proposals that limit excessive and unnecessary spending.

Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Yesterday, Governor LePage and Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Winterport) hosted a press conference with likely Presidential candidate Ohio Governor John Kasich, where they spoke about amending the U.S. constitution to require a balanced federal budget.

A balanced budget amendment would simply require the federal government not to spend more money than it collects in any particular budget.

However, before the press conference had even begun, the Maine Democratic Party, and other liberal groups in Maine, had already started attacking the idea of a balanced federal budget and shooting down the proposal.

Phil Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, called the idea a “reckless proposal that would take our country in the wrong direction and cripple our economic security, especially during a recession.”

The Maine Democratic Party even highlighted an article by the liberal Washington Post, which called the concept of a balanced budget amendment “the worst idea in Washington.”

Not only are Bartlett and the Democratic Party wrong about the U.S. still being in a recession (it formally ended in 2009) but they are also completely off the mark in classifying a balanced budget amendment as a reckless proposal.

Requiring the budget to be balanced has serious benefits, as it prevents hardworking taxpayers from taking on unnecessary and unneeded debt. It limits the size and scope of government, and provides assurance that future generations will have every opportunity to thrive and succeed.

Annual federal spending is growing at an ever increasing rate, and there seems to be no end to the recklessness in sight. Americans clearly need to limit the federal government’s ability to spend above our means and jeopardize our financial future.

As many conservatives acknowledge, a balanced budget amendment is not the end all solution to our economic troubles. It provides no inherient mechanism that prevents wasteful spending, and merely mandates that if the federal government wants to spend more, it needs to raise taxes.

But nonetheless, it would still provide another obstacle to destructive fiscal policies, and would be an improvement over the current system, where budgets often increase the national debt, and rarely balance.

Although there are several exceptions to this rule, federal expenditures have traditionally outweighed revenue because of two types of events – wars, and recessions.

As the Democrats are quick to point out, during a recession, revenue sharply decreases, while expenditures generally stay the same or increase.

Not only does this observation invite the obvious solution of simply cutting government expenditures to prevent running a deficit, but this conundrum could also be solved by the use of a “rainy day fund.”

As the Manhattan Institute explained in testimony to Congress, rather than turning to increased debt during economic downturns, it would be much more prudent to draw funds from a rainy day fund that could be filled during times of economic prosperity.

Additionally, during rare times of war, the balanced budget requirement could be suspended to guarantee America has every tool necessary to protect its national security.

Also, counter to the claims made by the Democrats, balancing the budget is not an impossible feat. In fact, in 2013, a class of college students at the University of Georgia drafted a balanced budget on their own, and created a plan for America that does not run a deficit.

Maine itself has even had a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget since it became a state in 1820. Despite all of the difficulties in crafting and passing a budget in Maine, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would call Maine’s balanced budget requirement “reckless.”

Given the Democratic Party’s clear desire to ignore the calls for financial responsibility, let’s just hope they don’t target Maine’s balanced budget requirement next.

About Patrick Marvin

Patrick Marvin is a former Policy Analyst for The Maine Heritage Policy Center. He holds a Masters Degree from the University of New Hampshire, and has an extensive background in analysis and research.

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