Poll: Majority support a balanced budget amendment

posted at 1:36 pm on May 27, 2011 by Tina Korbe

A full 65 percent of the public supports an amendment to the Constitution to require Congress to pass a balanced budget every year, The Daily Caller reports today. Just 27 percent oppose such an amendment, with 8 percent undecided.

[Eighty-one] percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents support the amendment. Even a plurality of Democrats, the party that typically resists spending cuts, back the amendment by a 45 percent to 44 percent margin.

“Americans are concerned about our nation’s deepening deficit and as a result, an overwhelming number support a balanced budget amendment,” said Alia Faraj-Johnson, Partner and Executive Vice President of Ron Sachs Communications, the organization that commissioned the poll.

Voters also said they would bring their political clout to bear to elect a candidate who supports a balanced budget amendment (BBA):

A large plurality – 46 percent to 21 percent — also say they would be “more likely” to vote for a presidential candidate who backs the amendment.

Such broad support would ultimately be necessary for a balanced budget amendment to meet success. The threshold to pass a constitutional amendment is high. Two-thirds of both houses of Congress must pass it, then three-quarters of states must ratify it to make it law.

Proposals for an amendment are already on the table. In the Senate, for example, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has introduced a BBA and, in the House, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has also introduced an amendment.

Some senators have even set the price of a debt limit increase at a BBA. Lee has pledged to oppose any increase to the debt limit unless both houses pass a balanced budget amendment — and Republican Senators Rand Paul (Ky.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.) have all promised the same.

But not all conservatives are on board for a BBA. The high hurdles to pass an amendment lead some to favor statutory spending caps instead. And House Republicans have tended to emphasize immediate and tangible spending caps rather than any kind of procedural reform in their debt limit negotiations. Why not cuts, caps and a balanced budget amendment? At a time when the national debt stands at more than $14 trillion and deficits totaled $2.75 trillion for fiscal years 2009 and 2010, no tool to reduce spending and encourage fiscal responsibility should remain in the shed.

Update: Turns out, I’m not the only one to favor a multi-pronged approach. The Republican Study Committee has also proposed the “Cut, Cap and Balance” idea. Red State’s Erick Erickson describes it as “a serious, robust plan to truly reform the way Washington budgets and spends taxpayer dollars.” I couldn’t agree more.


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It will take years for a BBA to become law since 35 states need to approve it. And there is no way to know that it will ever actually become law since who knows what states would do?

Doing this as part of a debt limit deal will be like amnesty for a “future enforcement of the border” deal.

No thanks.

angryed on May 27, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Should a BBA be the price of a debt limit increase?

Yes.

humdinger on May 27, 2011 at 1:40 PM

So isn’t a debt limit almost a defacto balanced budget amendment. Not exactly, but if kept in place it seems to be the one thing that can force Congress to stop spending and – essentially – balance the budget by not spending more than they’re taking in.

MikeknaJ on May 27, 2011 at 1:41 PM

A balanced budget amendment without a cap on income taxes is just a prescription to raise taxes forever. Be careful what you wish for.

Old Fritz on May 27, 2011 at 1:41 PM

Just be careful with how it is worded. Liberals will use it so that they can raise taxes, resulting in lower revenues and higher debt which then leads to raising taxes again, etc.

Maybe it should say spending for the upcoming quarter can not be greater than the previous quarter.

jeffn21 on May 27, 2011 at 1:41 PM

Yeah, let’s accept something that will never ultimately be approved by 3/4ths of the states in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

Are congressional Republicans really this stupid?

Mark1971 on May 27, 2011 at 1:41 PM

Too late. The doo-doo will hit the fan within the next 5 years…

And sure the Democrats will balance the budget…just increase the taxes some more and invent new taxes.

albill on May 27, 2011 at 1:44 PM

Are congressional Republicans really this stupid?

Mark1971 on May 27, 2011 at 1:41 PM

You know very well the answer is yes.

Actually maybe not stupid. But gullible. They still believe that liberals are honest and can be trusted. Which come to think of it means they are stupid after all.

angryed on May 27, 2011 at 1:44 PM

Should a BBA be the price of a debt limit increase?

Yeah, not a good trade, as Mark1971 notes. It takes forever to get the states to pass a BBA. For sure we should do this, but don’t give up anything to get it passed … you’ll get screwed.

Jaibones on May 27, 2011 at 1:47 PM

The intention is great…but I wonder about execution.

search4truth on May 27, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Two-thirds of both houses of Congress must pass it, then three-quarters of states must ratify it to make it law.

It will take years for a BBA to become law since 35 38 states need to approve it. And there is no way to know that it will ever actually become law since who knows what states would do?

Doing this as part of a debt limit deal will be like amnesty for a “future enforcement of the border” deal.

No thanks.

angryed on May 27, 2011 at 1:40 PM

I agree, but you need a few more states for ratification: 50 X .75 = (about) 38.

BuckeyeSam on May 27, 2011 at 1:49 PM

That Bill Clinton retracted/clarified his budget statement proves that the Obama thugs threatened him and that he is the super weasel he always was.

“It depends who’s mic is on” or something similar.

Schadenfreude on May 27, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Too late. The doo-doo will hit the fan within the next 5 years…

And sure the Democrats will balance the budget…just increase the taxes some more and invent new taxes.

albill on May 27, 2011 at 1:44 PM

It will only balance on paper because they always overestimate the revenue from tax increases.

A good first step would be to convince the Democrats that we should have a budget at all.

zmdavid on May 27, 2011 at 1:49 PM

I think a better idea would be to, um, cut spending! It doesn’t even require a special convention!

search4truth on May 27, 2011 at 1:50 PM

I agree, but you need a few more states for ratification: 50 X .75 = (about) 38.

BuckeyeSam on May 27, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Yes, which means 13 states can block it. The likelihood that there will be at least 13 states that don’t want to hinder the flow of federal dollars into their treasuries is very high.

Mark1971 on May 27, 2011 at 1:51 PM

I agree, but you need a few more states for ratification: 50 X .75 = (about) 38.

BuckeyeSam on May 27, 2011 at 1:49 PM

I was using crr6 and Ernesto math.

angryed on May 27, 2011 at 1:51 PM

Since when does the majority matter to this administration, much less Washington as as whole?

pilamaye on May 27, 2011 at 1:52 PM

A good first step would be to convince the Democrats that we should have a budget at all.

zmdavid on May 27, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Heh.

To others’ points, I grant that ultimately the government can just reinterpret what any law means which makes how a bill is worded almost moot, but there must be a way to pass a BBA that includes a mandatory cut in spending as opposed to an increase in taxes.

hisfrogness on May 27, 2011 at 1:57 PM

“Why not cuts, caps and a balanced budget amendment? … no tool to reduce spending and encourage fiscal responsibility should remain in the shed.”

Absolutely!

JimP on May 27, 2011 at 2:01 PM

We should absolutely make passage of a BBA a requirement for increasing the debt ceiling.

A Democrat version would be to have mandatory tax increases if the budget does not balance. That imposes zero spending discipline.

How bout we cap the Federal spending to 20% of GDP (okay, that’s a bit high).

We should also increase the Social Security retirement age by six month every year until the retirement age is 3 years less than life expectancy. (When SS was introduced the average life expectancy was 64 1/2 years and the retirement age was 65 so you got to retire six months after you were dead on average.) Do the same for Medicare and the entitlement problem is gone.

Peg old age benefits to life expectancy. It’s only right.

The Rock on May 27, 2011 at 2:05 PM

The majority oppose abortion, support secure borders, support less spending, support Israel, etc etc etc, but look where we are.

fourdeucer on May 27, 2011 at 2:08 PM

I would consider getting behind an Amendment that caps spending at 20% of the previous year’s GDP. I suspect that a BBA would likely be circumvented by the usual shenanigans such as what we saw with PayGo. Not to mention the likelihood that shortfalls would be made up in new taxes rather than cuts.

MJBrutus on May 27, 2011 at 2:10 PM

Sorry, the only majority that matters is the majority of Congress. That body has stopped doing what the people want, expect or demand many years ago.

JIMV on May 27, 2011 at 2:11 PM

I was using crr6 and Ernesto math.

angryed on May 27, 2011 at 1:51 PM

Count it!

Seriously, the 38-state hurdle is way too high for this kind of thing, given the number of blue states that would undoubtedly blackball it and the number of purple states that might blackball it.

BuckeyeSam on May 27, 2011 at 2:12 PM

The public is schizophrenic (I mean of two minds, not insane) about the budget. They are overwhelming to NOT increase the debt limit, because they know in their hearts the problems debt causes. But they are overwhelming AGAINST cuts in spending on Soc Sec and Medicare, and are susceptible to attempts to make them feel guilty about cutting other government services.

I say, do not increase the debt limit. Let the government try to live within its means. That would be an effective “Balanced Budget Amendment”, in practice. It might be better than the real thing. And it would be IMMEDIATE. Or until Geitner runs out of sleazy ways to circumvent the debt limit.

Paul-Cincy on May 27, 2011 at 2:12 PM

So isn’t a debt limit almost a defacto balanced budget amendment. Not exactly, but if kept in place it seems to be the one thing that can force Congress to stop spending and – essentially – balance the budget by not spending more than they’re taking in.

MikeknaJ on May 27, 2011 at 1:41 PM

LOLz. OK I coulda just quoted this. Now I’ll read Tina’s article. I shoulda done that. :)

Paul-Cincy on May 27, 2011 at 2:13 PM

I can’t see a BBA helping much. It would either be so constricting that it would hamstring us in a war or emergency, or would have enough loopholes in it that it would be useless. The same Congress that spent us into a hole now proposing a BBA sounds like a “stop me before I spend again” appeal. What we need are adults in Washington, not a bunch of rules that keep them from spending like drunken sailors*.

*My apologies for comparing Congress to drunken sailors, since drunken sailors stop spending when they run out of money.

Socratease on May 27, 2011 at 2:13 PM

Why not pass a BBA without increasing the debt limit?

Bugler on May 27, 2011 at 2:21 PM

A balanced budget amendment without a cap on income taxes is just a prescription to raise taxes forever. Be careful what you wish for.

Old Fritz on May 27, 2011 at 1:41 PM

This.

The BBA scares the hell out of me if it won’t a) cap spending at a certain percentage of GDP, and b) include emergency provisions for wartime spending.

I don’t trust any of these bastages as far as I can throw them.

CantCureStupid on May 27, 2011 at 2:22 PM

How about “you can’t spend more next year than you took in last year” ?

marinetbryant on May 27, 2011 at 2:35 PM

A balanced budget amendment without a cap on income taxes is just a prescription to raise taxes forever. Be careful what you wish for.

Old Fritz on May 27, 2011 at 1:41 PM
This.

The BBA scares the hell out of me if it won’t a) cap spending at a certain percentage of GDP, and b) include emergency provisions for wartime spending.

I don’t trust any of these bastages as far as I can throw them.

CantCureStupid on May 27, 2011 at 2:22 PM

This. THIS!

ladyingray on May 27, 2011 at 2:41 PM

I don’t trust any of these bastages as far as I can throw them.

CantCureStupid on May 27, 2011 at 2:22 PM

Fargin iceholes!

SKYFOX on May 27, 2011 at 2:42 PM

We had a balanced budget during the Depression and a lot of good it did us. Probably not 5% of those mickey mouse polls have a clue about that.

HAGGS99 on May 27, 2011 at 2:45 PM

BBA isn’t effective. It will be like the debt ceiling… just another legislative add-on that adds nothing except uncertainty to the market.

lexhamfox on May 27, 2011 at 3:01 PM

We should also increase the Social Security retirement age by six month every year until the retirement age is 3 years less than life expectancy. (When SS was introduced the average life expectancy was 64 1/2 years and the retirement age was 65 so you got to retire six months after you were dead on average.) Do the same for Medicare and the entitlement problem is gone.

Peg old age benefits to life expectancy. It’s only right.

The Rock on May 27, 2011 at 2:05 PM

You really cant use life expectancy as a rule as those numbers have been tremendously skewed since ~1930 or so as the childhood mortality rate has dropped so far and so fast that comparing numbers from anything before that date is pretty much a math drill. Over the course of just the 20th century in the US the average life expectancy rose by over 30 years. Very unprecedented.

Johnnyreb on May 27, 2011 at 3:18 PM

A statutory spending cap can be revoked by Congress at any time. Possibly by just approving a budget that blew through it.

Real reform will require several structural changes, some of them requiring Constitutional Amendments. Or the repealing of same (the 16th, for one). There is no single magic bullet, especially since many of the Democrats don’t think laws apply to them. The law requires Congress to pass a budget, yet the Democrats haven’t for over 700 days.

I think the 17th Amendment should be repealed, Term Limits imposed on Congress and the bureaucracy. And I’m getting skeptical about the Federal Reserve.

LarryD on May 27, 2011 at 3:29 PM

Why not cuts, caps and a balanced budget amendment?

BBA is a “feel good” ruse that only “locks in” deficit spending.

Last version I saw capped spending at 20% of GDP. Heh – in the last 60 years we’ve collected 20% of GDP in Federal Revenues only …

One time – in 2000.

The rest of the time – we’re collecting revenues at an average rate of 17% of GDP – but sometimes as low as 15% of GDP. Sooo … the Republicans are “locking in” 5% deficit spending in those years where we only collect a minimum in tax revenues – and for the foreseeable future with this lousy economy – that’s going to be the “norm” for quite some time.

But – this is NOT surprising for a product which was crafted by John Cornyn – a career politician who has no intention of giving up any of his power. His power comes to him in the form of our TAX DOLLARS – and he redistributes those dollars to those who keep him in power – same as most politicians actually – he’s just a major player though in this.

You pass the “BBA” – and you’ll not see it ratified for ten years or more – if even then. In the meantime – the GOP will have the PERFECT excuse to sit on their asses and do nothing.

So no – BBA is crap there and it always has been.

I’ll throw this last part in – though most peeps, especially Tina, should know this.

The budget is “passed” – or should be “passed” before October.

Tax revenues don’t roll in until the NEXT APRIL (fully six months into the fiscal year).

Sooooo … how in the H E L L are lawmakers supposed to know how much they can spend before they know how much in tax revenue they are getting?

The answer? Statistical predictions which will probably come from the Congressional Budget Office. The same entity that told us ObamaCare would cut BILLIONS off the federal deficit.

So yes – I’m sorry – but we in the grassroots are a bit “hipper” about how things work – and you cannot so easily pull the wool over our eyes anymore.

You want a balanced budget amendment? Make the cap 12% – that will guarantee surpluses and an ability to pay down the debt.

HondaV65 on May 27, 2011 at 4:21 PM

Randy Barnett had a good idea: any time outflow (including interest on bonds) exceeds income for a year, the President gets a line-item veto the subsequent year.

njcommuter on May 27, 2011 at 6:01 PM

Two points please.

#1 one of the MAJOR causes for the current situation is the fact that the Congress has been ignoring the Constitution for decades. Now you think that amending the Constitution is going to “fix” the problem?

#2 I’m tired of people accusing the Congress of spending like “drunken sailors”. I know drunken sailors….drunken sailors are my friends of mine. Sailors spend THEIR OWN MONEY….then (usually) stop when they run out.

SwabJockey on May 28, 2011 at 4:42 AM

“Should a BBA be the price of a debt limit increase?”

“Expletive” No! All that does is guarantee the progressives have a license to tax us as much as they wan to “balance the budget.”

What we need is a spending cap even if it is as a percentage of GDP. That they cannot wiggle around.

{^_^}

herself on May 28, 2011 at 8:25 PM

Who picked 18%? That is pretty large for a government of enumerated powers.

AshleyTKing on June 18, 2011 at 4:56 PM

Sailors spend THEIR OWN MONEY….then (usually) stop when they run out.

SwabJockey on May 28, 2011 at 4:42 AM

Noted. Like a bunch of drunken thieves or welfare kings.

AshleyTKing on June 18, 2011 at 4:57 PM