The gap between what this BBA pretends to do – and what it actually does – is enormous. It has nothing to do with “balancing the budget” – it is about slipping in a new national sales tax or value-added tax in addition to the existing federal income tax.
We have become so shallow that we look no further than a name – if it sounds good, we are all for it. We hear, “balanced budget amendment,” and think, “I have to balance my budget; they should have to balance theirs.” So we don’t read the amendment, we just assume they will have to balance theirs the same way we balance ours – by cutting spending.
But that is not what the BBA does. In effect, it redefines “balancing the budget” to mean spending no more than your income plus the additional debt you incur to finance your spending. To illustrate: If your income is $100,000 a year; but you spend $175,000 a year, you “balance” your budget by borrowing the additional $75,000. See?
Under the BBA, Congress may continue to spend whatever it likes and incur as much new debt as it pleases – as long as 26 States agree. And since the States have become major consumers of federal funding, who doubts that they can’t continue to be bought? Federal grants make up almost 35% of the States’ annual budgets! The States are addicted to federal funds – who thinks they won’t agree to get more money?
The BBA enshrines Debt as a permanent feature of our Country; gives it constitutional approval; does nothing to reduce spending or “balance the budget”; authorizes a new national tax; and wipes out the “enumerated powers” limitation on the federal government.
Let’s look at the BBA, section by section, using plain and honest English. And then let’s look at how our Framers wrote our Constitution to strictly control federal spending.
Compact for America’s BBA
Section 1 says the federal government may not spend more than they take from you in taxes or add to the national debt. [Yes, you read that right.]
Section 2 accepts debt as a permanent feature of our Country – the “Authorized Debt.” This is the maximum amount of debt the federal government may incur at any given point in time.
- Initially, when the Amendment is ratified, the “authorized debt” may not be more than 105% of the then existing national debt. So! If the national debt is $20 trillion when the Amendment is ratified, the federal government may not initially add more than 105% of $20 trillion [or $1 trillion] to the national debt.
- After that initial addition to the national debt, the “authorized debt” may not be increased unless it is approved by State Legislatures as provided in Section 3.
Section 3 says whenever Congress wants, it may increase the national debt if 26 of the State Legislatures agree. [Yes, you read that right.]
Section 4 says whenever the national debt exceeds 98% of “the debt limit set by Section 2,” the President shall “impound” sufficient expenditures so that the national debt won’t exceed the “authorized debt.” And if the President doesn’t do this, Congress may impeach him!
This is a hoot, Folks! I’ll show you:
- No debt limit is set by Section 2! The national debt can be increased at any time if Congress gets 26 State Legislatures to agree. Can 26 States be bought?
- Section 6 defines “impoundment” as “a proposal not to spend all or part of a sum of money appropriated by Congress”. Who believes Congress will impeach the President 2 for failing to “impound” an appropriation made by Congress?
Section 5 says any new or increased federal “general revenue tax” must be approved by 2/3 of the members of both houses of Congress.
Now pay attention, because this is a monstrous trick to be played on you: Section 6 defines “general revenue tax” as “any income tax, sales tax, or value-added tax” levied by the federal government.
And when you read the first sentence of Section 5 with the definition of “general revenue tax” in place of “general revenue tax,” you see that it says:
“No bill that provides for a new or increased income tax, sales tax, or value-added tax shall become law unless approved by a two-thirds roll call vote…”
Do you see? This permits Congress to impose a national sales tax or value added tax in addition to the income tax, 3 if 2/3 of both houses agree. [Yes, you read that right.]
But the trickery of the drafters of this evil piece of work is even worse. Section 5 also says that any bill for a new sales tax which would replace the federal income tax need only be approved by a simple majority of the members of both houses.
This makes most readers believe that the income tax would be replaced by a sales tax.
But the Amendment does not require Congress to introduce a sales tax to replace the income tax. [Remember, that sales tax requires only a simple majority to get passed.]
Whereas it authorizes Congress to impose a sales tax or value-added tax in addition to the income tax! [This sales tax requires a 2/3 majority to get passed.]
Do you see? Are they tricky or what!
And which option will Congress choose?
Section 6 sets forth the definitions for the amendment. As you see, you must always read the definitions and apply them to the text.
Section 7 says the Amendment is “self-enforcing.” Rubbish! No Constitution or amendment is “self-enforcing.” There is only one way to enforce our Constitution: WE THE PEOPLE, who are “the natural guardians of the Constitution” (Federalist No. 16, next to last para), enforce it by learning it and by throwing out politicians who ignore it. We must always be on guard against the wolves who seek to destroy it.
Nick Dranias, on the Board of Directors for the Compact for America , is a constitutional lawyer. History professor, Kevin R. C. Gutzman, on the Advisory Council, is a lawyer. Other prominent lawyers and a 5th Circuit Court Judge, are on the Council. They all know what their BBA does.
How Does Our Constitution Control Federal Spending?
Our Constitution lists – itemizes – every power WE THE PEOPLE delegated to the federal government when we ratified the Constitution. These are the “enumerated powers.” Article I, §8 lists most of the powers delegated to Congress for the Country at large: 4
- immigration office (Art. I, §8, cl.4)
- mint (Art. I, §8, cl. 5)
- a few criminal laws (e.g., Art. I, §8, cl. 6)
- post offices & post roads (Art. I, §8, cl. 7)
- patent & copyright office (Art. I, §8, cl. 8)
- federal courts (Art. I, §8, cl. 9)
- military and citizen militia (Art. I, §8, cls. 11-16)
Various other Articles, sections, and clauses list additional objects of Congress’ spending, such as payment of the salaries of persons on the civil list (Art. I, §6, cl.1; Art. II, §1, next to last clause; and Art. III, §1).
Do you get the idea? The Constitution lists what Congress is permitted to spend money on. Its spending is limited to the enumerated powers, and the salaries of those on the civil list. If you will go thru our Constitution and highlight every power delegated to Congress and the President, you will see ALL the objects on which Congress has constitutional authority to appropriate funds. THAT is ALL – ALL – they may lawfully spend money on.
We have a debt of $17+ trillion (plus unfunded liabilities) because WE ignored our Constitution for 100 years; and Congress spent money on objects outside the scope of the enumerated powers.
This one page chart depicts the Constitution We established, and most of what Congress may lawfully spend money on. Is it not a thing of beauty? Do you want it back? Then Restore it!
Understand this: All versions of a BBA eliminate the enumerated powers limitations on the federal government. Under all versions, the Constitution is “fundamentally changed” to permit the federal government to do anything they want and to spend money on anything they please.
Amendments are a tricky business. And tricksters abound in our Land.
1 Compact for America is also trying to use the “compact of the states” provision & is calling for an Art. V convention. Red Flag, Folks! But for now, let’s look just at their dishonest BBA.
2 Congress always had authority to impeach and remove a President for usurpations of power – see this short Primer.
3 Section 5 also says Congress may reduce or eliminate existing income tax exemptions, deductions, or credits by a simple majority vote.
This paper lists all the powers delegated to Congress by our Constitution. You can learn them!