Several versions have been proposed in recent months, and others will surface as the deadline to vote nears. The most important task for Congress is to determine which version will actually serve to restrain government spending and prevent the American economy from collapsing under the weight of its own debt.
Washington has a long and unhappy history of well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful attempts at spending reform. In the 1980s, the so-called Gramm-Rudman reforms called for automatic spending cuts if annual deficits exceeded specified targets. Yet budget deficits surpassed the Gramm-Rudman targets every year the law was in effect because Congress simply circumvented the automatic cuts. The overall framework was discarded after only a few years.
Next came pay-go (“pay as you go”) rules, which required spending cuts or tax increases to offset any new spending. For the next decade, however, clever politicians used accounting gimmicks to avoid these rules and continue deficit spending. In recent years, congressional Democrats passed new pay-go rules but waived or simply ignored them on no fewer than 26 spending bills between 2007 and 2010.
With mounting deficits at record levels and a national debt now larger than our entire economy, Americans have a renewed interest in imposing a strict, structural and enforceable spending restraint on Congress. But not all balanced-budget amendments are alike.
Congress can pass and the states can ratify language that amends the Constitution to require the federal government to balance its budget. But if the amendment, like a Trojan horse, is filled with loopholes and avenues to circumvent the balanced-budget requirement, it will do little to rein in out-of-control spending.
At a minimum, a meaningful balanced-budget amendment must include four essential provisions. First, it must apply to all spending. Some have already suggested taking Social Security and other entitlement spending “off budget,” but doing so would allow Congress to ignore the greatest drivers of our nation’s deficit.
For more click here: http://thehill.com/opinion/op-ed/193567-avoiding-the-trojan-horse-bba