Balanced Budget Amendments (BBA) Gut Our Constitution And Don’t Reduce Spending
By Publius Huldah
Q: Doesn’t our Constitution already provide for controlling federal spending?
A: Yes. It lists the purposes for which Congress may spend money. Spending is limited by the “enumerated powers” listed in the Constitution:
- If it’s on the list of powers delegated to Congress or the President, Congress may lawfully appropriate funds for it. Read the Constitution and highlight the delegated powers – then you will know what Congress may lawfully spend money on.
- If it’s not listed, Congress may not lawfully spend money on it.
Q: What is the connection between the Oath of office (Art. VI, cl. 3) and federal spending?
A: All federal and State officials take an Oath to support the federal Constitution. The Constitution lists what Congress may lawfully spend money on. When people in Congress spend money on objects not listed in the Constitution; and when State officials accept federal funds for objects not listed (race to the top, common core, etc.) they violate their Oath to support the Constitution.
Q: Are the federal departments of Education, Agriculture, Labor, Energy, Housing & Urban Development, Health & Human Services, DHS, etc., etc., constitutional?
- Power over education, agriculture, labor relations, energy, etc., etc., was NOWHERE in the Constitution delegated to the federal government. Those powers were reserved by the States or the People.
- DHS – a national police force under the President’s control – is becoming our version of the East German STASI. Yet the States colluded with the feds in nationalizing law enforcement because they wanted the federal funds and military equipment.
Q: How did we get a national debt of over $17 trillion, plus trillions more in unfunded liabilities?
A: Congress spent on objects for which it has no constitutional authority, such as teaching Chinese prostitutes how to drink responsibly, bailouts of private businesses, welfare handouts, farming programs, education schemes, and grants paid to States to bribe them into implementing unconstitutional federal programs. It was the unconstitutional spending which gave us this crushing debt.
Q: The 10th Amendment says all powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved to the States or to the People. What happened to these reserved powers?
A: The States sold them to the federal government. The States have become administrative subdivisions of the federal government, and their aim is to siphon as much money as possible from the federal government.
Q: What should we do about the unconstitutional spending?
A: We must eliminate pork. We must systematically dismantle unconstitutional federal departments & agencies. Except that the Department of Education should be shut down, and its bureaucrats sent home, by this Friday at 5:00 p.m. All these functions must be restored to The States or The People.
Why BBAs Are Destructive
Q: Why won’t a BBA fix our debt problem?
A: They don’t address the cause of the problem: Congress spends where they have no constitutional authority to spend. The BBAs don’t eliminate the unconstitutional spending; and they place no limits on the amount of the unconstitutional spending.
Q: Is a BBA harmful?
A: Yes. All versions of the BBA legalize spending which is now illegal and unconstitutional as outside the scope of powers delegated to Congress or the President.
Q: Would a BBA fundamentally transform our Constitution?
A: Yes. All versions of the BBA amend out the enumerated powers limitations on the federal government and transform the federal government into one of general & unlimited powers where the feds may spend money on whatever they want as long as they don’t exceed the spending limits “imposed” by the BBA.
Q: So a BBA changes the constitutional criterion for spending?
A: Yes! All versions of the BBA change the criterion from:
- WHAT Congress spends money on (it must be an enumerated power), to
- A LIMIT on total spending where Congress can spend money on whatever they want.
Q: How are spending limits in the various versions of the BBA set?
- by the amount they take from us in taxes, or
- by a certain percentage of the GDP, or
- by the additional amounts they borrow to finance their spending.
Q: Can these limits on spending be raised?
A: Yes! In all versions of the BBA, Congress can vote to raise the spending limit (just as they vote every few months to raise the debt limit). In the version of the BBA by Nick Dranias and Compact for America, Congress and at least 26 States can vote at any time to raise the spending limit.
Not only do the BBAs fail to address the cause of the problem (Congress spends on unconstitutional objects); none of them limit the amount of Congress’ spending because the spending limits can be raised whenever they want to raise them.
So! Just as Congress votes every few months to raise the debt ceiling; they can vote whenever they want to raise the spending limit.
Q: What about Mark Levin’s amendment “to limit federal spending” (page 73 of his book)?
A: Levin’s amendment makes lawful the spending which is now unconstitutional. And his amendment does nothing to control spending:
- Levin substitutes a “budget” [which permits spending on whatever people in the federal government want] 1 for the enumerated powers listed in the Constitution; and,
- While it pretends to limit spending to income, it actually permits Congress to suspend the spending limit and to continue to raise the national debt limit.
So! Like all other BBAs, Levin’s legalizes the present unconstitutional spending and does nothing to curb spending. It legalizes the status quo. And it guts our Constitution by erasing the enumerated powers limitations on spending.
Q: What about Randy Barnett’s version of a BBA? [See Barnett’s 8th amendment here.]
A: Randy Barnett, law professor, redefines “unbalanced budget” to mean a budget where the national debt is greater than it was the previous year. [Yes, you read that right.]
Barnett’s amendment doesn’t address the unconstitutional spending which caused the massive debt.
And it delegates sweeping new powers to the President to stop funding anything he doesn’t want funded. E.g., it permits him to ban appropriations authorized by the Constitution, such as all funding for our military (which is authorized by Art. I, Sec. 8, clauses 11-14).
Q: What is the real purpose of all versions of the BBA?
A: The sole purpose is to remove the enumerated powers limitations on the federal government and give it general & unlimited powers.
Folks! You must read the texts of the proposed BBAs and see what they actually say. Do not stop with the name and just read in your own understanding of what it means to “balance a budget”.
For more information on various versions of the BBA see:
1 The federal government didn’t have a budget until the Budget Act of 1921, which purported to grant budget making power (taxes & appropriations) to the President.
The Budget Act is unconstitutional. Article I, Sec. 8, cl. 1, delegates to Congress Power to lay and collect Taxes; and Art. I, Sec. 9, next to last clause, delegates to Congress Power to make appropriations:
“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”
Before the Budget Act of 1921, Congress made appropriations for items listed in the Constitution as the need arose; determined the taxes, and kept records of both. PH