Government Bytes


Columnist Steve Chapman's Anti-BBA Arguments are the Real Delusion

by Pete Sepp / /

In his syndicated column, Steve Chapman attempts to torpedo support for a Balanced Budget Amendment in a purely negative piece, “The Balanced Budget Amendment Delusion”, absent of any positive suggestions for remedying America's fiscal crisis. Fortunately for those looking for solutions, the real “delusions” in Steve Chapman’s article are the author’s own arguments against such a proposal.

He rightly critiques repeated failures of our leaders to “get serious about the deficit even when they face a stark obligation,” yet he believes a constitutional balanced-budget rule would fare no better. If so, why have a Constitution and Bill of Rights at all? An amendment would focus policymakers (not “distract” them as Chapman contends) on more responsible budgeting – and, in the words of former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Holtz-Eakin, “give Congress a way to say no” to special interests.

Chapman then raises several stale and contradictory objections about an amendment, such as it being easily evadable by crafty politicians. If so, why haven’t those same politicians lined up to pass the amendment and claim credit for a gimmick they know they can undermine? Because they know that the amendment, while not perfect, will put a check on their fiscal excesses and hold them more directly accountable to the electorate when they engage in chicanery.

Thomas Jefferson wrote about the need for “an additional article” to the Constitution “taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.” Here’s hoping Chapman doesn’t consider one of our Constitution’s architects “delusional” too – and that Chapman will pay a visit to the National Taxpayers Union again sometime soon. He could get a worthwhile refresher course on why the tax-spend-and-borrow crowds in both parties have feared this amendment for so long.