Amendment 28

How about this as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States?

Amendment 28:
Section 1: The president shall determine the dollar amount of total federal outlays prior to the passage of the budget.  Congress must allocate outlays to remain within this dollar limit.
Section 2: The presidential budget cap can be exceeded by a three-quarters vote of both Houses of Congress.

This would designate one individual as the person responsible for the total level of federal outlays, and therefore for the amount of the budget deficit.  With this responsibility presidential candidates would include in their platforms the budgetary caps they would propose, and it would be easy to see whether, once in office, they kept their promises.  One could imagine fiscal conservatives campaigning on setting a stringent cap, whereas those who favored a larger role for government would campaign for a higher cap.

As a check on presidential power, and to allow for urgent situations, Congress could override the presidential cap by a three-quarters vote.

I’ve seen lots of proposed balanced budget amendments, but they all seem to have too many loopholes, are too complicated, and during a time of budget deficits would seem to essentially be a constitutional requirement to raise taxes.  This amendment would not have those problems; however, it does not address the problem of unfunded liabilities.  I admit unfunded liabilities are a big problem, and this amendment only addresses the more narrow issue of deficit spending.

I don’t see any real negative consequences from such an amendment, and I do see that it has the potential to control excessive expenditures.

What do you think?

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America .
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