Publius-Huldah's Blog

Understanding the Constitution

Balanced Budget Amendment: Why it is The WORST Idea Ever

By Publius Huldah.

Senator Jim DeMint (who should know better) is supporting The Balanced Budget Amendment.  Proponents of this “fix” trumpet these supposed benefits:   That the amendment would:

  • Require Congress to balance the federal budget each year
  • Prevent Congress from spending more than 20 percent of GDP
  • Require a 2/3 super-majority vote to raise taxes

But the actual result of the proposed amendment would be to finish off (with little hope of resuscitation) our existing Constitution of enumerated powers; and create a new system where Congress’ unconstitutional legislation & spending is legitimized – as long as it is no more than 20% of the GDP.

And since Congress, the executive branch and the judicial branch already ignore the limitations the existing Constitution places on their powers (they have no lawful authority outside of their enumerated powers);  it would be no time at all before they ignore the 20% limit on spending.  This “emergency” or that “emergency” would arise; and soon the 20% limit would be ignored as well.

Our Constitution Created a Limited Federal Government with Enumerated Powers.

With The Constitution, WE THE PEOPLE ordained and established a Federation of States which united for the LIMITED PURPOSES enumerated in the Constitution: national defense, international commerce & relations; and domestically, the establishment of an uniform commercial system:  Weights & measures, patents & copyrights, a monetary system based on gold & silver, bankruptcy laws, and mail delivery.  That’s about it! Read Art. I, Sec. 8, clauses 1-16, U.S. Constitution, and you will see for yourself how few are the powers delegated to Congress.

The Federalist Papers confirm that ours is a Constitution of enumerated powers only.  In Federalist No. 45 (9th para), James Madison, Father of the Constitution, says:

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected.  The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people…”   [emphasis mine]

Do you see?  The objects on which Congress is authorized by the Constitution to make laws and spend money are few and enumerated. 1

Congress Violates the Existing Constitution by Legislating & Spending on Unconstitutional Objects.

The Constitution does not permit Congress to create and appropriate funds for the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Transportation; etc.

The Constitution does not permit Congress to appropriate funds for Independent Agencies and Government Corporations such as AMTRAK, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, African Development Foundation, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Railroad Retirement Board, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, Tennessee Valley Administration, etc.

The Constitution does not permit Congress to appropriate funds for the many Boards, Commissions, and Committees and various Quasi-Official Agencies.

The Constitution does not permit Congress to appropriate funds for pork barrel spending or for private concerns.

The Constitution does not permit Congress to appropriate funds for massive “entitlement” programs such as social security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The Constitution does not permit Congress to appropriate funds to bail out private businesses.

All these Departments, Agencies, Government corporations, Boards, Commissions, Committees, Bureaus, “entitlement programs”, Pork, and bailouts are unconstitutional as outside Congress’ Enumerated Powers.

It is this lawless & unconstitutional spending which gave us a national debt of over $14 Trillion – a debt which increases at the rate of over $4 Billion a day!  It is also this lawless & unconstitutional spending which has resulted in the federal government’s increasing interference in the most intimate aspects of our lives. With obamacare, it now claims the power to decide whether we receive, or are denied, medical care:  Who lives and who dies.

We can not starve The Beast if we give it a Constitutional Claim to 20% of GNP!

Think! Oh, you proponents of this truly terrible idea! According to this chart, the GNP for 2009 was $14.119 Trillion.  (And was it not the 16th Amendment [another “fix”] which made it possible for The Beast to grow as big as it has?)

Giving The Beast a constitutional claim to “only” 20% of the GNP will not reign it in.  We need to man up and face the real problem:  Congress legislates and spends money on objects for which it has no constitutional authority.

The Answer is to Strip the Beast of its Usurped Powers!

We must systematically dismantle the unconstitutional federal departments and agencies and programs.  Start by eliminating the Department of Education. [We are becoming a People notorious throughout the World for our Ignorance; so the sooner they are gone, the better.]  More departments can be eliminated outright; the functions of others transferred to the States, or privatized (private charities or enterprises).

The People, our elected officials, and appointed judges & officials are ignorant of The Constitution. Yet their hubris is so great [thanks to “self-esteem”- something which is taught in the government schools], 2 they run around proposing amendments to a document they don’t understand (and have most likely never read).

Our Framers were far better educated than we are today.  And unlike us, they knew how to think. We, today, can not improve on The Constitution which they, led by intellectual luminaries such as James Madison, took months, working full time, to draft.  In fact, our fiscal problems, and the increasing and systematic curtailments of our Freedoms, stem directly from our ignoring The Constitution they gave us.

As a People, we have developed a cowardly mindset where we refuse to address the causes of our problems.  We just want to treat the symptoms, blame-shift, and avoid the consequences.  If we are overweight, we don’t want to address our eating & exercise habits.  Oh no!  We want a “fix” – a pill; we blame our thyroid, our genes, or the medicine we are taking; and we want other people to pay the medical expenses resulting from our own destructive habits.  We apply this same destructive mindset to the Constitution.  Instead of manning up and facing the cause of our problems – which is that we want to live at other peoples’ expense, and so elect politicians who promise us Plunder – we want a “fix” which permits us to blame-shift:  It’s The Constitution’s fault!  So we go around proposing Amendments, the ramifications of which we do not understand.

We all need to Look in the Mirror.  Return to PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.  Restore our Constitution.  And Starve the Beast.


1 The Federalist Papers show again and again that ours is a Constitution of enumerated powers only.  For more citations and quotes, see Why States Must Nullify Unconstitutional Acts of Congress.

2 There are, of course, some great teachers in the government & labor union controlled public schools. But they are rare jewels. PH

February 23, 2011

POSTSCRIPT (Feb.  27, 2011)

Someone asked me the following excellent question:

“Why exactly would passing a balanced budget amendment lead to more unconstitutional spending?  If it is a duly-ratified amendment, then how would it authorize other spending that violates the other provisions of the Constitution?”

My answer:

My conclusion is based on 3 things:  A legal rule of construction, my knowledge of how lawyers & judges “think”, & my knowledge of human nature.

1. It boils down to this: Say you have a 16 year old daughter & tell her to abstain from sex until she is married.  Next week, you give her a bag of condoms & tell her you will give her such a bag every month.

2.  The “Rule of Construction” is this: When there are contradictory provisions, “…the last in order of time shall be preferred to the first.  But this is a mere rule of construction, not derived from any positive law, but from the nature and reason of the thing…”.  (Hamilton, Federalist No. 78, 12th para).

3.  For 41 years, legal “minds” have been the “minds” I know best.  The federal courts, Congress, & Executive Branch already ignore the essence of our Constitution, which is that it is one of enumerated powers only, and the list of objects on which Congress may lawfully appropriate funds is short.  The Balanced Budget Amendment does not address that unconstitutional spending. All it purports to do is limit that unconstitutional spending to “only” 20% of the GDP. But if Congress restricted its spending to its enumerated objects, it could not possibly spend such a large sum as 20% of the GDP!

If Congress made laws only on its enumerated powers, there would be so few federal statutes that most federal judges would have absolutely nothing to do – Congress could cut 99% of them.

The federal government established by our Constitution is very small and has power over only those 21 or so objects delegated to them.  In one of his 6 Papers on taxation, Hamilton says that the only significant expense of the federal government would be in times of War.

By not addressing Congress’ unconstitutional spending, & by approving the spending of 20% of the GDP – a sum Congress could not possibly consume if it were restricted to its constitutional powers – the balanced budget amendment impliedly repeals the enumerated powers aspect of our Constitution.  The rule of Construction mentioned by Hamilton would be applied, and our Constitution would no longer be one of enumerated powers – just one with a spending cap (which, of course, as  Mike Foil points out, can be exceeded in times of war, emergencies, when a certain number in Congress approve exceeding the 20%, etc.)

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February 23, 2011 Posted by | Balanced Budget Amendment | , , , , , | 28 Comments


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