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Okay, Fine. Let’s Have a Balanced Budget Amendment

July 28, 2011 1 comment

Let’s be honest: A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is probably a terrible idea.

The big issue with a balanced budged amendment is that, as the lender of last resort, the Federal government occasionally needs flexibility to borrow to address certain problems, like emergencies, recessions/depressions and fluctuations in revenue occasioned by the peaks and values of revenue that are caused by normal economic cycles (some of that can be compensated for by not requiring the budget to be balanced annually, of course). That, you know, and balanced budget amendments at the state level don’t seem to have been particularly effective at creating balanced budgets.

But here we are.

Congress and the President have taken the delusional stance that raising the debt ceiling should somehow be tied to cuts in the federal budget. Nevermind the fact that the appropriate forum for these kinds of discussions would, you know, be during the annual appropriations process where, you know, deficit budgets are enacted into law. But, again, here we are.

In this game of brinksmanship with the Full Faith and Credit clause, there is only one group that is sure to lose no matter what the ultimate settlement is: The poor.

So, as House progressives complain that they have been shut out of the negotiations on raising the debt ceiling; as the Republican caucus is fractionating among the budget hawks, the political opportunists and the truly deranged; and as the Senate offers an incomplete solution, it occurs to me that it is time to embrace some of the Tea Party talking points and turn them into something that is palatable from a social justice standpoint (A tip of the cap here to Sven Wilson over at Pileus, who inspired this post with one of his own).

So, I say: You want a balanced budget amendment? Fine. Here’s what we want: A Constitutional guarantee that the budget will not be balanced on the back of the poor, the vulnerable, the sick, or the elderly.

Here’s what I propose (I mean, the language clearly needs to get cleaned up a bit, but you’ll get my idea):

AMENDMENT XXVIII

Preamble.

The Constitution of the United States was established to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. We acknowledge that debt incurred in the normal course of business of the United States has the potential increase to a level which threatens the establishment of justice, domestic tranquility, the common defense, and the general welfare; and may threaten our legacy of liberty. Therefore, in accordance with those principles, this amendment ensures increased fiscal responsibility by requiring that the Congress more closely balance the expenditures of the Government of the United States with its revenues.

Section 1.

Upon the effective date of this Amendment, and except as provided herein, the Congress may not enact a budget for any fiscal year which contains allocations that exceed one hundred and five percent of the annual average of revenues for the last five fiscal years, allowing an appropriate adjustment for inflation.

Section 2.

Should the Congress enact a budget with allocations exceeding one hundred and five percent of the annual average of revenues for the last five fiscal years, allowing an appropriate adjustment for inflation, such budget shall be enacted by a two-thirds majority vote.

In the event of a special allocation of monies, outside of the normal budgeting process, such allocation shall be enacted by a two-thirds majority vote.

Section 3.

If the Congress acts in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of this Amendment, the Attorney General of the United States shall file a Petition for Injunction in the Supreme Court of the United States seeking enforcement of this Amendment. If the Attorney General of the United States fails to act, any elected member of Congress or the President may seek enforcement of Sections 1 and 2 of this Amendment. If the elected members of Congress and the President fail to act under this section, any tax payer in the United States may file suit in a District Court of competent jurisdiction seeking enforcement of Sections 1 and 2 of this Amendment.

Section 4.

This Amendment shall go into effect on January 1, 2027.

The extended period of time given to comply with this Amendment is in consideration of the budget deficits of the Federal government at the time this Amendment was ratified. As the Federal government seeks to balance its budget, it is the intent of the ratifiers of this Amendment that vulnerable populations in the United States are not disproportionately affected by that process, to-wit: benefits received by vulnerable populations (I mean, we could fight over this definition) shall not be reduced from 2011 levels, adjusted for inflation, until January 1, 2027.

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News roundup

July 11, 2011 Leave a comment

An interesting article on competency in juvenile delinquency proceedings from the NYT. Editorially, I would point out that this would probably be less of a problem (strategically and legally speaking) if juvenile delinquency courts were more focused on rehabilitation and treatment as opposed to punishing offenders.

Online therapy? Could this be a solution to bringing resources into undeserved areas?

And one more NYT piece on rethinking addiction.

Wired has an interesting piece on feedback loops.

Google Ideas looks for a solution to extremism. Could this concept be applied to other social problems?

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Some perspective from the Miami Herald

On child homicide trials which are not national media attention grabbers: Story here.

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