For Immediate Release: June 15, 2011

Proposed Balanced Budget Amendment Is Off Balance, Harmful for all Americans

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee today resumes debate today on a proposed constitutional balanced budget amendment (H.J. Res.1 Proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution of the United States). The drastic proposal would, by constitutional law, limit federal government spending as a percentage of GDP to 18 percent-a level not seen since 1965-severely curtailing spending and limiting the ability of the nation to meet its priorities. At the same time, the amendment would require a super majority to raise additional revenue, all but making closing corporate tax loopholes and ending tax breaks for the wealthy impossible. Following is a statement about the proposed amendment by Alan W. Houseman, executive director of CLASP, the Center for Law and Social Policy.

"While it is true that the nation must work to get its deficit under control, the balanced budget amendment is a disingenuous misnomer. The bill is not a plan for balance rather it is a formula for dismantling the government and weakening programs and services on which all Americans rely. Limiting government spending to 18 percent of spending is unrealistic given the nation's priorities. Not since 1965 has government spending as a percent of GDP been that low, and it's important to note that that era preceded aging Baby Boomers and expansions in national security, health care, education and other critical programs that provide support to Americans at every income level. Even during the Reagan Administration, federal spending averaged 22 percent of GDP.

"The proposed amendment would make meeting the nation's current priorities impossible, and it would weaken America's future by underfunding the very programs-education, research, access to job training and higher degrees, investments in space travel, technology and infrastructure-that make the nation economically sound and globally competitive. It would hurt low-income people severely by squeezing out sufficient funding for opportunity promoting programs such as child care and early education to help children succeed in school, workforce development and adult education opportunities to help individuals get and retain jobs that provide for their families or safety net programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF that support families during times of need.

"The proposed balanced budget amendment comes as federal lawmakers are having a wide conversation about deficit reduction that also includes the FY 2012 budget, the nation's debt ceiling as well as its long-term debt. While these conversations are important, they are incomplete. The nation can't begin having honest discourse about its finances until lawmakers begin to take a broad look at spending and revenue. And lawmakers must make certain that plans to balance the nation's budget don't harm the most vulnerable among us."

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