Does Congress have the discipline to balance the budget on its own?
I think they have proven over the past several decades that they don't, regardless of what party you are talking about. We currently have the highest deficit in history and it doesn't look like there is any end in sight to it.
The following is a graph
of our historical national debt as a precent of GDP. It also lists our current debt which happens to be $7.7 Trillion at the moment.
Bush has consistently talked about paying down the debt, balancing the budget and the like but his actions have been different.
Republicans who favor limited government have not just been alienated by the recent actions of Congress. They have also been betrayed by a spending addiction within the Bush White House. Much to the chagrin of fiscal conservatives and the probable surprise of liberal Democrats, domestic spending under Bush increased 11 percent from 2001 to 2003. Discretionary domestic spending increased at an even greater amount, nearly 16 percent between 2001 and 2003. In addition, these numbers do not reflect the increased spending due to the war on terror and the war in Iraq. By comparison, overall federal spending has increased at twice the rate under President Bush than under President Clinton. (source)
Generally increasing spending and cutting taxes at the same time isn't a good idea. The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is estimated at around $200 Billion by most and Bush has recently asked for about $82 billion more outside of the regular budget process just to get us through December 2005. That doesn't include all of the Iraq and War on Terror line items which will be in the actual budget Congress will soon be voting on.
Finally, this so-called crisis with Social Security is laregly due to the fact that Congress is collecting a tax to be used for a specific program and then they rob a good portion of that revenue for other programs. And they wonder why it is "in crisis."
The Republicans used to be the party that talked about being fiscally responsible, but they have clearly abandoned that portion of their platform and have decided to move in the other direction. We usually hear the words "fiscally responsible" coming now from Democrats, but I'm not sure I believe them either.Should Congress pass a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution?
I suppose it depends on what the amendment says, but I think they should. I am tired of tax cuts being handed out as the modern "bread and circuses" to sate the masses and gather votes when it doesn't make sense from a financial perspective. "Here have $600 back on your taxes, nevermind we are engaged in an epensive war and have the largest deficit in history - just remember who allowed you to buy that new DVD player in November!"
I'm tired of politicians getting us involved in wars and programs that we can't afford in the first place.
A balanced budget amendment seems to make complete sense to me as it would to any person managing their own financial situation. Everyone knows the dangers of running up debt to have what they want. It is high time that the federal government start being held accountable for their spending.
Such an amendment would also force taxes to be realistic. If you want to go start a 1/2 Trillion dollar war then you better be prepared to pay higher taxes for it. If you think you are paying too much in taxes then perhaps you should vote for some politicians that will require efficient government programs or perhaps you'll realize that spending several hundred million on ineffective programs like absitence only education isn't such a good idea afterall.
A balanced budget makes the government behave responsibly, will probably prompt increased efficiency and it eliminates pork at the same time. I really can't see anything wrong with it.
I think there should be a provision in such an amendment that we can unbalance the budget in time of national emergency or war (only when formally declared by congress). However, a plan to re-balance the budget after the crisis has passed must be put in place.
I'd actually like to see us have de facto socialist level taxes because it would finally wake people up a little and force them to take back the country from all of these politicians that spend money like a gambling addict on payday.