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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Balanced Budget Shenanigans

Dave Weigel has been all over this story, which is strange enough that it might otherwise be difficult to credit: Republicans promoting the “cut, cap, balance” proposal keep talking about robust numbers of Democrats who have supported a Balanced Budget Amendment, as evidence their pet rock is more viable than other debt limit solutions circulating around Washington. A list being circulated by Sen. Mike Lee of UT counts 23 such Democrats in the Senate alone.
As Dave points out, some of the Democrats on the Lee’s list are just talking generally about how nice it would be to balance budgets (in at least one case, at the state level), and most of the others are touting very old versions of a BBA that simply required, you know, a balanced budget, often with significant loopholes.
But what makes this gambit outrageous and significant isn’t just that it’s mendacious: it also helps underscore the fact that the constitutional amendment called for in the CCB legislation isn’t primarily about balancing the federal budget. It’s about the provisions in the amendment proposal that would create a permanent supermajority requirement for enacting tax increases (a faithful echo of the Prop 13 requirement that has made such a fiscal mess of California over the years), and a permanent limitation on federal spending linked to a permanent percentage of GDP.
Republicans are perfectly within their rights to promote these terrible ideas for writing their inflexible fiscal and economic theories into the U.S. Constitution, but they shouldn’t get away with pretending the balanced budget part of the proposal is any more than a pretext. In reality, they oppose balanced budgets unless they are achieved solely through sharp and arbitrary spending reductions. It’s sort of like Republican support for “pro-family policies”–it’s only “pro-family” if you accept their definitions of “families” and their assumptions about what is good for “families.” In other words, it’s all a smokescreen for their real agenda.

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