More On

Regulatory: The missing clause of the Constitution?

The calls for a balanced budget amendment intensify.

As the debt ceiling struggle intensifies, members of Congress are calling for adoption of a balanced budget amendment. As with all proposals to amend the Constitution, the first question is: Why didn’t the Founding Fathers include a balanced budget requirement in the Constitution? How could they have missed the tendency of legislatures to spend more than they raise in taxes?

The Framers actually understood that democratic decision-making bodies tend to overspend. From bitter experience during the Revolutionary War, they also believed that financial markets would prevent a government from living beyond its means. What they could not foresee was that subsequent developments in financial markets would, for a long period of time, give the U.S. government the ability to run deficits and issue debt with little regard for the costs. That period is now ending.

author image

John Cooney

John F. Cooney is a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Venable.

Bio and more articles

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.