Walter E. Williams: Balanced budget amendment ‘a cop out’

With the outcome of the debt ceiling debate still uncertain, some Republican members of Congress are touting a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution as a solution to the nation’s fiscal problems. It takes time, however, to enact a constitutional amendment.

On Mark Levin’s Monday radio program, George Mason University economist Walter Williams called the current balanced-budget-amendment push a “cop out,” at least for the short term.

“I don’t think things like you hear some of the politicians saying — ‘Well, before we have a debt limit increase, we’re going to have a balanced budget amendment,’” Williams said. “Well, that is just a cop out. A balanced budget amendment will never become law before five or six years and we’re going to be broke by then.”

Williams did, however, offer a way forward for the GOP.

“I think that since they have the power in the House of Representatives, I think that they ought to vote for spending reductions and then send it to the Senate and see whether the Senate will go along with it,” Williams said. “I doubt whether the Senate would go along with it and if they did let the president veto it.”

According to Williams, Republicans must play hardball in the budget battle — just like the Democrats did with Obamacare.

“[The Republicans] should play hardball,” he said. “You know Democrats had no problem playing hardball, you know, with this health care thing. They’re just in your face — they just voted this Obamacare. They didn’t have any problem playing hardball. I think the Republicans ought to get the guts enough to do the same thing.”

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  • NSFWashington

    The problem with a balanced budget amendment is that it might require tax increases to “balance” things. Either first we have to make major (and *actual*) spending cuts, or they have to be part of the amendment too – as in a percentage of GDP.

    Of course, if Congress was spending money only on constitutional programs and services to begin with, none of this would be a problem…


    • free2booze

      Tax increases shouldn’t be a concern under the current balanced budget amendment proposal. The Hatch-Lee amendment (SJ Res 10) would require federal spending be limited to 18% of the previous year GDP. Regardless of rates, tax revenue to the federal government has averaged close to 19% of GDP. Also, under the proposed amendment, any proposal to increase taxes would require a 2/3 vote in both houses of congress, while tax cuts will only require a simple majority vote.

  • ChillytheAlaskan

    Right on, no increase in the debt limit, cut spending, lay off unessential government workers, cut back the size and scope of the federal government, AND a balanced budget amendment limited to a percentage of GDP.

    Williams is right, the republicans need to play hardball starting right now. The democrats do it, they need to do the same.

  • lrgon

    You contradicted your own premise by saying that if congress refuses to raise the debt limit it will force congress to balance the budget. Therefore we only need congressmen with guts to do what is needed not a BB amendment that will postpone, delay and cancel any hopes of ever having a balanced budget as Dr. Williams says.

    “Prioritze spending?” If it means cutting every unconstitutional department, agency and bureau I go along with that!

    • free2booze

      We need both spending cuts and a BBA. Even if the current congress has the fortitude to cut spending, there is no reason to trust that a future congress will follow suit. Unless there is some sort of mechanism to force congress to live with in their means, they will eventually return back to their spend happy ways.

  • centexan

    Well, we didn’t increase our oil drilling years ago because it would take 8 to 10 years for the production to come to the market. Well, the 8-10 years has passed and we could have used that oil now. If a deal could be reached to get the votes on the balanced budget amendment and no veto, it could at least go to the states and the 5 or so year process could get started. We’ll be having this conversation in 2016 I’m sure.

    • free2booze

      President doesn’t get the opportunity to veto a proposed amendment to the Constitution. If the amendment passes congress, it goes straight to the states.

  • ajkrik

    Agreed. Saying it won’t take effect for years does not equate to it not being worth demanding. Aren’t there enough Congressmen to write a balanced budget amendment? Give it to some staff to write and vote on it before the next “postal naming” vote.

  • lphaze1942

    The old saw that solutions to a problem created by our government will take too much time is the same excuse that got us here in the first place. This administration and past administrations led by both parties have used the same arguement time and time again to kick the can down the road. It is the same arguement used against domestic energy production by Obummer.

    The brutally honest truth is you have to begin the process sometime. If you are honest about our situation, the sooner we begin the process the better. Even if it does take some time to solve the problen permanently.

    The short term solution is to not raise the debt limit. That in effect forces government to balance the budget and prioritize spending.