Argument: Unworkable to measure and define balanced budget

Issue Report: Balanced budget amendment to US Constitution


Davis Merritt. “Balanced-budget amendment is unworkable.” The Wichita Eagle. August 2nd, 2011: “Our Constitution outlines in the broadest terms how the federal system works. It contains few numbers, is by design remarkably flexible, and assumes that underlying comity and good intentions will prevail despite strong partisan passions. Amending it is a complex process for good reason, and we should do it precisely and with foresight and caution. A balanced-budget amendment violates those criteria.”

Simon Johnson. “Is a Balanced Budget Amendment a Good Idea?” NYTimes. August 2nd, 2011: “The first issue, which has been forcefully identified by my fellow Economix blogger Bruce Bartlett, is that there is no way to make this amendment work. The language proposed would, as part of the “balance,” limit federal government spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product, and only a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress could waive that limit. On the table, in effect, is a balanced budget amendment with a spending cap. G.D.P. is not a legal concept but an economic measure, the details of which change all the time, subject to the prevailing view of best practice among statisticians. To take one example, the flow value of housing services for people who own their houses is imputed to create a number that is roughly equivalent to what renters pay.”