The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget (BBA) this week. This is a dangerous proposal that will slash funding to necessary programs like Social Security and Medicare and weaken the economy. The League has opposed this misguided effort for decades and we will not let it move forward now.
If an economic downturn reduces revenues, the federal government would have no choice but to spend less, despite the growing need. That is a recipe for turning downturns into recessions, or worse. Millions could lose their jobs. Low-income people will lose the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare, jobs programs, and housing. The federal role in investing in education, infrastructure, new technologies, medical research, and protections against epidemics and disasters would be severely weakened.
On the surface, the amendment sounds good, but it would greatly endanger our economic future. Mandating a balanced budget every year, no matter the state of the economy, virtually ties the hands of our government behind its back. A requirement to balance the budget means no borrowing to pay to provide aid during natural disasters or raising the debt ceiling. A BBA could force the U.S. into a recession, causing job loss and hurt long-term growth. Cuts to balance the budget will come at the expense of working families and those in need of public assistance programs like Medicare and Social Security.
It would be a serious mistake to insert a balanced budget amendment or other fiscal policy mandates into the Constitution of the United States. Our Constitution has served the nation well in part because it has focused on enduring principles of government, rather than attempting to dictate fiscal policy for current and future generations. Policymakers should be providing leadership on fiscal policy, not seeking to cover themselves by writing a highly ill-advised, economically damaging balanced budget amendment into the Constitution.