Republicans yammered about a balanced budget amendment through most of the 1990s, shutting up only when the Clinton Administration balanced the budget without one. They continued to keep their mouths shut while George W. Bush borrowed and spent trillions of dollars and ran up the Deficit That Could Eat Cleveland. And now they are pinning that deficit on the guy who inherited it and are demanding another balanced budget amendment.
Any respectable economist, meaning any economist not on the payroll of a right-wing think tank, will tell you that a balanced budget amendment would permanently cripple the U.S. economy. David Leonhardt provides a basic explanation why this is so. See also Stephen Foley, explaining our little pickle to British readers of the Telegraph:
[A] balanced budget amendment is terrible economics. It effectively means an end to counter-cyclical fiscal policy: when a recession strikes, the federal government would not be able to stimulate the economy by spending more. Instead, it must cut back at the same time householders and businesses are doing the same, making the recession worse. It could condemn the US to a perpetual recession, a depression even.
Wiser heads tend to regard any balanced budget amendment proposal as a gimmick Republicans periodically use to bash Democrats. “As it is such terrible economics, the tendency has been to assume it cannot pass,” Foley writes. The problem is that after years of such demagoguery, enough ideological zealots have been elected to Congress to possibly make it real, and the American public is brainwashed enough to support it.
Grassroots organisations have been lined up to agitate in support of the plan; Republican governors, including at least two potential presidential candidates, have written in support in the past few days. It could easily become a touchstone issue for next yearâ€™s elections, with moderate Democrats not wanting to be seen as weak on cutting the deficit.
After all the drama of last week, Republicans had the chutzpah (or, in Minnesota, “choot-spa,” possibly from Old Norwegian “sjÃ¸sltsbÃ¥t,” the act of sniffing reindeer glue) to trot out another hard-right proposal over the weekend that is absolutely devoid of compromise and which is nothing but another Dem-bashing tool. “Cut, Cap, and Balance” was praised as a “common sense” proposal, which in Republicanese means it’s wearing a tin foil propeller beanie and crazypants.
It begins with the McConnell plan, in which the debt ceiling is raised three times between now and November, and each time, Republicans are able to offer a resolution of disapproval. Then it adds in $1.5 trillion in spending cuts harvested from the Biden talks. Then it creates a committee of 12 lawmakers charged with sending a deficit-reduction plan to Congress by the end of the year. Whatever they decide on would be protected from the filibuster and immune to amendments.
Ezra doesn’t mention a balanced budget amendment, but they’ve thrown that in as well.
The only bright spot in this mess is that opposition to this proposal can be found across the political spectrum. The teabaggers don’t like it because it gives too much away to Obama. Face it; any raising of the debt ceiling will be seen as a failure and betrayal by the wingnuts, which makes me think the Republicans should just do it and get it over with and think of something else to stir up the mob going into the campaign season.
And, of course, anyone sane enough to not believe pixies are hiding behind the light socket plates is nervous about this, also.
Amy Fried writes that Republicans, as always, justify whatever lunatic thing they are pushing by claiming it’s what the American people want, even when polls say the American people want something else entirely. But, in Republicanese, “the American people” means “large donors to the Heritage Foundation.” If you understand that much, then the rest of it starts to make sense. Sort of.