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Elegant and Concise: The Compact's Balanced Budget Amendment

Some folks look at the Compact's proposed Balanced Budget Amendment and say that it looks too long for a constitutional amendment. But the truth is that the BBA's length is right in line with that of recent constitutional amendments proposed on the same subject matter.

You don't have to take us on faith about that.

First, take a look at the Compact's Balanced Budget Amendment, as recited in the portion of the draft congressional resolution activating the Compact for a Balanced Budget.

As drafted in the formal style of Congress, which involves large fonts, wide margins, and double spacing of text, the proposed BBA occupies fewer than three pages; and the BBA itself consists of merely seven sections. One of these seven sections supplies definitions; another furnishes an effective date provision.

In the remaining five sections, the Compact's BBA imposes a spending limit, a debt limit, a tax limit, and powerful flexibility and enforcement mechanisms; all of which are carefully designed to resist all known debt limit evasion tactics.

Now compare the Compact's BBA to:

S.J.R. 1 (2013): two pages and nine sections (some definitions).

S.J.R. 7 (2013): three pages and eleven sections (some definitions).

S.J.R. 10 (2011): three pages and eleven sections (some definitions).

S.J.R. 24 (2011): two pages and eight sections (some definitions).

In view of these recent congressional proposals, it is clear that the Compact's BBA is reasonably compact - especially because it supplies definitions for all of its operative terms, without which any amendment is easily evaded.

Indeed, in view of over 100 years of legal and political shenanigans making swiss-cheese out of the more simplistic debt limits and balanced budget requirements found in state constitutions, the Compact's BBA is as elegant and concise as real reform can get.

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