It may sound like a good idea to require the federal government to balance the budget, but it’s nothing more than a thinly-disguised way for Teapublicans to shrink government and give corporations free reign to exploit people and resources.
Make no mistake, as soon as a balanced budget amendment is passed, if it ever is, Teapublicans will cut taxes at the first opportunity. That will result in less revenue, which, in turn, will result in large budget cuts. Of course, those cuts will not affect corporate welfare or the military-industrial complex. Instead, there will be cuts to regulatory agencies and safety nets. Already we’ve seen the GOP propose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act which will deny affordable health insurance to more than 16 million Americans. We’ve seen GOP-sponsored budgets that propose cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and Supplemental Nutrition programs. We’ve seen Teapublican initiatives to defund the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, and the Department of Labor.
All of this will be made much easier if Teapublicans can muster enough votes to pass a balanced budget amendment.
The truth is, our federal government has often operated at a deficit. Not because of bad management or negligence. But out of necessity. Indeed, the Constitution was created to replace the failed Articles of Confederation over federal deficits. The fledgling government had run up substantial debts during the Revolutionary War and, without a central government, it had no way of collecting the funds to repay those debts. And that’s but one example: Had FDR not expanded government programs to put people back to work, we likely would have never emerged from the Great Depression. Had the US not operated at a deficit, we would not have been able to conduct military operations for WWII and most of our other all-too-frequent wars.
The Reagan administration operated at massive deficits in an attempt to outspend the Soviet Union. The Bush administration operated at enormous deficits in order to create the Homeland Security Department and to prosecute the Afghan and Iraq Wars. And the Obama administration has operated at deficits (albeit steadily decreasing deficits) in order to wind down operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and to dig our economy out of the trench created by Bush.
Since 1975, only two administrations have produced surpluses, and both of them were Democrats! Taking it a step further, in the past 100 years, there have been eight Democratic presidents and nine Republicans. Five of the eight Democrats oversaw deficits smaller than they inherited, while seven of the nine Republicans oversaw deficits larger than they inherited.
Given their history, do you really think Teapublicans are pushing a balanced budget amendment out of a sense of fiscal responsibility?
Moreover, balanced budget requirements are no guarantee of fiscal responsibility. In Arizona, for example, once the legislature passed a balanced budget requirement, Teapublicans set about starving the state with tax cuts. Of course, those tax cuts have not been shared equally. The state not only cut taxes for the wealthy. It has cut corporate taxes for 24 of the past 25 years. Meanwhile, it has raised sales taxes to push the costs of government onto those who can least afford it. The resulting lack of revenue has, in turn, led to catastrophic cuts to education and other services.
Since no Teapublican will ever again agree to raise taxes, the state is caught in a downward spiral fueled by ideologues, greedy corporations, self-serving politicians, dark money donations to lapdog candidates, and a series of “studies” and propaganda from conservative “think tanks.” It’s a death spiral from which the state may never recover.