Federal Deficit Resolution: Measure Asks Whether or not Feds Should Have to Balance Budget
Do voters want to send a message to Washington that they are tired of federal deficit spending?
Unlike Florida lawmakers, who must balance state revenues with spending every year, Congress can spend more than it collects. The federal government’s willingness to use money it doesn’t have has long been a bone of contention among political theorists.
The debate intensified in recent years as the federal government, despite shrinking revenues brought on by recession and tax cuts, used deficit spending to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a bank bailout and an economic stimulus program to boost the country out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Many fiscal conservatives say the federal government’s practice of spending more than it collects in taxes weakens both national security and the health of the private markets that must compete with the government for loans. States, however, are required by their constitutions to enact budgets in which spending equals the amount of revenue collected. If collections go down, so does spending. Congress is under no such restriction.
Over the past two years, a stagnant economy, coupled with aggressive government spending, caused the national debt to rise from $10 trillion in 2008 to $14.6 trillion in 2010.
For the most part, the debate in the 2010 state legislative session split along party lines. Republican backers say the question on the ballot this year will provide voters with a chance to weigh in on the issue. They also say an affirmative vote would put pressure on Congress to tighten its belt and give Florida delegates in Washington political support to make the argument for an end to deficit spending.
Democrats put up little resistance to the resolution, largely because it won’t change anything. During debate on including the question on the ballot, Democrats chided their Republican colleagues for promoting what some critics called a push poll, a survey in which questions are written in such as way as to steer votes in a desired direction.
The nonbinding resolution reads: “In order to stop the uncontrolled growth of our national debt and prevent excessive borrowing by the federal government, which threatens our economy and national security, should the United States Constitution be amended to require a balanced federal budget without raising taxes?”
Arguments for: Voters get a chance to weigh in on the issue. An affirmative vote would put pressure on Congress to tighten
its belt, and give Florida delegates in Washington political
support to push for change.
Arguments against: This is nothing more than a push poll, a survey in which questions are written in such a way as to steer votes in a desired direction. It unnecessarily adds to an already complicated array of ballot initiatives.