Earlier this month, a vote in the House of Representatives fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for a balanced budget amendment. But we haven't seen the last of it. If Republicans capture the White House and the Senate next year, expect another push.
This may seem like the right moment for the amendment. In 1976, the national debt was $629 billion. Today, it exceeds $15 trillion. As our elected leaders continue spending more than the government takes in, a constitutional amendment looks like a fail-safe way to make them stop. If only, writes Steve Chapman. One flaw is that it doesn't actually balance the budget. It merely requires Congress and the president to do so. But they can already do so—and they consistently fail to get serious about the deficit even when they face a stark obligation. The reason politicians don't balance the budget is that they and their constituents aren't ready for the unthinkable realities this option would entail: higher taxes, reduced government benefits, or both. Those choices won't get any less excruciating if a balanced-budget amendment is ratified.