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house Bill H. Joint Res. 114

Should the Constitution Have a Balanced Budget Amendment That Caps Spending at 20% of GDP?

Argument in favor

The federal government has lived beyond its means for far too long, racking up a $20 trillion debt that will have to be paid by future generations. A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that also caps federal spending at 20 percent of GDP would help put the country’s fiscal house in order.

SneakyPete's Opinion
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10/16/2017
Should a Balanced Budget be established—Yes. should it be further be caped at 20% of GDP— Yes. Will it ever be done— It’s very doubtful. WHY..... Very simple considering ALL members of Congress will trade their votes for “Pork Barrel Projects” in their Home Districts/States. Otherwise, You Scratch My Back & I’ll Scratch Yours. Old Political game from time eternal.
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anatidae's Opinion
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10/16/2017
We need to decrease our deficits and debt and work more efficiently. Whether that be cutting ineffective bureaus or military spending or both. The government should only exist with the essentials to protect its people.
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DrRichSwier's Opinion
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10/16/2017
But 20% is to high. I suggest 10% as a much better figure.
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Argument opposed

A balanced budget amendment would pose too much of a constraint on the federal government, preventing it from funding many vital programs because deficit spending would be difficult politically for Congress to approve. The federal government needs to tax and spend more despite the debt.

Cindylen's Opinion
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10/16/2017
This should not be an amendment. We don’t know what the future will bring. Make it a policy, or a rule, but not an amendment.
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Joshua's Opinion
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10/16/2017
This is arbitrary and ignores how debt actually works. We need fiscally responsible budgets but not ones designed to cripple government spending and tying any exceptions to a highly partisan group. Please just act to spend wisely and responsibly instead!
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Douglas 's Opinion
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10/16/2017
Capped spending is not what’s needed. Higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations are needed to compensate for areas where the market is inefficient.
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What is House Bill H. Joint Res. 114?

This resolution would propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that requires the federal budget to be balanced each year, meaning that federal spending couldn’t exceed tax revenue collected. The amendment would also prohibit the federal government from spending an amount exceeding 20 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and require the president to submit a balanced budget to Congress. The spending restrictions wouldn’t be in effect in a fiscal year when a declared war is in effect, or if three-fifths of the Senate and two-thirds of the House vote to suspend them.

Because it proposes a constitutional amendment, after this resolution’s passage by two-thirds of both chambers of Congress it would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures (38 states) to amend the U.S. Constitution.

Impact

American taxpayers and the general public; the federal government; Congress; and the president.

Cost of House Bill H. Joint Res. 114

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) proposed this balanced budget amendment with a spending cap to prevent the federal government from living beyond its means:

“For far too long our federal government has operated far beyond its means. It is irresponsible and dangerous to continue down this fiscal path. American families balance their budgets. Businesses balance their budgets. Most states and local governments have no choice but to balance their budgets. With more than 19 trillion dollars in federal debt, it is past time that Congress and the President were constitutionally required to balance our budget.”

Historically, federal spending as a percentage of GDP has trended very closely to the 20 percent cap proposed by Roby’s constitutional amendment. After peaking at 40.6 percent in the final year of World War II, the proportion fluctuated between 10.8 percent and 19.8 percent from 1947 to 1979, next exceeding 20 percent during the recession of 1980. It remained between 20 and 20.3 percent throughout the 1980s before gradually dropping to 17.6 percent at the end of the 1990s. During the most recent recession spending as a percentage of GDP peaked at 24.4 percent in 2009. It has remained above 20 percent since 2008, totaling 20.7 percent in 2016.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: uschools / iStock)

Official Title

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States which requires (except during time of war and subject to suspension by Congress) that the total amount of money expended by the United States during any fiscal year not exceed the amount of certain revenue received by the United States during such fiscal year and not exceed 20 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States during the previous calendar year.

joint resolution Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedJuly 27th, 2017
    Should a Balanced Budget be established—Yes. should it be further be caped at 20% of GDP— Yes. Will it ever be done— It’s very doubtful. WHY..... Very simple considering ALL members of Congress will trade their votes for “Pork Barrel Projects” in their Home Districts/States. Otherwise, You Scratch My Back & I’ll Scratch Yours. Old Political game from time eternal.
    Like (148)
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    This should not be an amendment. We don’t know what the future will bring. Make it a policy, or a rule, but not an amendment.
    Like (230)
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    This is arbitrary and ignores how debt actually works. We need fiscally responsible budgets but not ones designed to cripple government spending and tying any exceptions to a highly partisan group. Please just act to spend wisely and responsibly instead!
    Like (137)
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    Share
    Capped spending is not what’s needed. Higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations are needed to compensate for areas where the market is inefficient.
    Like (106)
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    A more efficient way to reform the budget is to close tax loopholes, establish more tax brackets so the rich pay their fair share, tax on income earned from stocks, shares, dividends, etc. This along with cutting needless spending on contracts to companies for equipment and war machines we do not need or do not have room for (the Military-Industrial complex at work) would reduce spending in the discretionary budget and increase tax revenues.
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    Austerity ruins economies. This is WIDELY shown in data. See Mark Blyth’s work- there are some (slightly wordy/long YouTube videos of his presentations)
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    Absolutely not. Government can not effectively react to unforeseen conditions with balanced budget restrictions in place. The severity and longevity of the Great Depression was due in large part to this short-sighted notion that balanced budgets are always desirable.
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    We need to decrease our deficits and debt and work more efficiently. Whether that be cutting ineffective bureaus or military spending or both. The government should only exist with the essentials to protect its people.
    Like (27)
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    The pro-con argument for a balanced budget amendment has been going on for at least 50 of my 68 years. I venture to say that it has occupied a significant percentage of the time lawmakers have spent arguing in various sessions of Congress throughout those decades. I sometimes think it simply provides a distraction for We the People to take our eyes off the mechanisms behind the scenes and focus them on a Gordian knot-like argument that will distract us from real issues. The two opposing sides of this argument are unlikely ever to find a middle road. And if you think you understand the issue, I would argue that it is very likely that you do not understand it at all. I offer this article as an excellent review of the topic: https://www.pgpf.org/budget-basics/balanced-budget-amendment-pros-and-cons. For myself, I side with those who hesitate to amend the Constitution for something that exerts such an inconstant and unpredictable a force on our economy. Placing Constitutional restraint on such a volatile element as the financial markets is IMHO, unwise.
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    This is smart money management...
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    Seems pretty rational to me.
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    No need for a Constitutional Amendment to address this issue. Stop going to war and spending appropriations for war and this should not be a problem. Invest in education and preventative health programs and all costs will eventually decrease to a manageable operation level within a comfortable tax program that works for all.
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    Clearly no one remembers Keynesian Economics and how they pull our country out of recession every time. When in debt, you run deficits. Try and balance the budget of course, but there’s a 700 billion dollar drain on our economy that is putting us in such a situation. As long as you’re ignoring the tumor, you don’t have to worry about chemotherapy.
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    But 20% is to high. I suggest 10% as a much better figure.
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    Why because the world changes. Cathy is right. This should not be an amendment make it a policy or rule. DO NOT OPEN UP THE CONSTITUTION. Too high of a risk for contamination.
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    A country’s budget is not the same as a personal budget which this seems to ignore. While I think that fiscally responsible spending is a great idea it is not as simple as this bill would make it seem.
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    Good idea, even if it changes the Constitution. The Federal government has already lived far outside its means and has its hands in every bucket. This would be a way to reduce spending for sure AND reduce the size of the Federal government. If a little more can be added, I’d say that the Federal government must also abolish wasteful programs and go back to what it was originally set out to do; be the face of foreign policy, while leaving domestic politics up to the states.
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    The government is not a building. It is a group of citizen politicians who help run this country. Individual citizens are expected to keep their individual financial situations in order, so why shouldn't the government live under those same expectations?
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    The goal behind this is good. But this isn’t the way to lower our debt.
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    I am a post-Keynesian. So-called balanced-budget bills enforce austerity and exaggerate the pain that comes with a recession.
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