Under the U.S. Constitution, Article V allows two avenues for adding an amendment. The first is through Congress; the second via a Constitutional Convention which requires 2/3 or 34 states to convene and then 3/4 or 38 states to ratify. ALEC has been focused on the second avenue in order to get a balanced budget amendment added to the Constitution.
In the typical fashion of the extreme right and organizations like ALEC who strive to undercut social welfare spending, a balanced budget amendment would change Social Security and Medicare for the worse.
A balanced budget is often claimed by the extreme right to be the sign of good governance. It is a myth that has been propagated over time and I remember even Australia the talk of the importance of a balanced budget and anything less meant government was not doing its job.
However, any reading in the area of economics exposes this idea for the incorrect rhetoric it is. The federal government needs flexibility to be able to respond to economic downturns by using stimulus packages. This means spending in the short term which will result in an increased national debt. It’s just good economics.
The amendment that ALEC is seeking would tie the hands of the federal government in its ability to respond to economic recessions. The result would be a further deepening of any recession and a slower recovery of the economy generally. The amendment would also limit the ability of the federal government to help states deal with natural weather events.
ALEC’s Taskforce on Federalism and International Relations placed a heavy emphasis on the amendment issue in its 2015 agenda. The Taskforce this year offered a workshop called “How a State Drafted and Ratified Balanced Budget Amendment.”
A number of resolutions have been passed by states supporting a balanced budget amendment, including Oklahoma in 2016. The Balanced Budget Amendment Taskforce had been targeting Oklahoma in order to get its vote on a resolution. ALEC now believes it is close to being able to ask Congress to call a national convention. Thanks to Oklahoma’s vote this year, ALEC only requires five more state resolutions to reach the required 34.
What an absolute travesty to talk about balancing federal budgets when ALEC friendly Oklahoma has experienced the worst kind of budget woes in this year’s legislative session.