November 18, 2011

A Balanced Budget Amendment with teeth

Unlike the farce that went down to defeat today, this Balanced Budget Amendment would work.

Amendment _____

Section 1. The government of the United States shall not spend more in any fiscal year than it collects in that fiscal year, and it shall include all its discretionary and mandatory expenditures during that fiscal year when calculating its spending.

Section 2. The government of the United States shall not spend more in any fiscal year than eighteen percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the United States for that fiscal year. Gross Domestic Product means the sum of private consumption, gross investment, and total exports, from which sum is subtracted total imports. No government spending of any kind shall be considered when calculating Gross Domestic Product.

Section 3. For any fiscal year in which the government of the United States spends seventeen percent or less of Gross Domestic Product, the President and each member of Congress shall receive a bonus payment that shall be exempt from all taxation. This bonus shall equal one half of the recipient's annual base salary for each whole percentage point less than eighteen percent of Gross Domestic Product spent by the government of the United States.

Section 4. The government of the United States may exceed the spending limit in Section 2 only during a period of declared war in which the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged in actual armed hostilities against the armed forces of the nation against which the war was declared. Such excess spending shall only be used to directly fund the operations of the Armed Forces of the United States, must be approved by a three fifths vote of each chamber of Congress, must be reauthorized annually in the same manner, and must end no later than six months after the conclusion of hostilities.

Section 5. The text of this Amendment shall be interpreted to mean what a rational and reasonable reader on the date of its ratification would have objectively understood it to mean.

Section 6. This Amendment shall take effect three calendar years from the date of its ratification.

Section 1 does away with the accounting tricks used by Washington politicians to keep entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security off the books.

Section 2 sets the spending limit at 18% for a very good reason, and also prohibits Washington from including its own spending in the data for economic activity (since government spending cannot create wealth; it can only redistribute it).

Section 3 harnesses humanity's inherent self-centeredness to serve society by providing juicy incentives to our politicians. For example, if Congress and the President pass a balanced budget that spends only 15% of GDP, each politico gets a bonus check for one-and-a-half times their base salary, completely tax free, and we get to keep more of our own money.

Section 4 prevents this Amendment from forcing the American people into an unintended suicide pact, but also prevents politicians from playing games with so-called "emergency appropriations" that slither around the rules. There's a sunset clause that forces Congress and the President to re-authorize any emergency wartime spending every year, which will keep them operating out in the open and subject to public scrutiny.

Section 5 forces lawyers, politicians, judges, and special interest groups to stick to the common understanding of the Amendment as understood by today's Joe Average. No "emanating penumbras," "evolving standards," "defining one's own concept of meaning," or "flexible legislative intent" loopholes allowed. This is not a "living document."

Section 6 provides enough time to prepare for the new budgeting process by guaranteeing that at least one Congressional election will take place between ratification and enforcement, plus a cushion for the "new kids" to get settled and involved in the budget process.

Have I missed a loophole somewhere? Let me know if you think you've spotted one. Lord knows, we can't survive much more of this:

suicide spender

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Easier asked than answered. There are a bajillion of them floating in limbo in the Congressional Record, including the most recent casualty, which failed to pass the House today. If you want to see a... Read More

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