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How the Hobbits Take Washington

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The United States Congress will not pass a balanced budget amendment unless they have a gun to their head -- and I think the debt ceiling negotiations has been rare opportunity to get all balanced budget on them.

There are two things wrong with the likely outcome of the debt ceiling agreement; 1. Any agreement that Harry Reid and Barack Obama are willing to sign will create election year discord among Republicans and 2. No matter how high they set the ceiling, Congress is sure to hit it by 2013.

I believe it was that great Democratic philosopher Rahm Emanuel who advised mankind that “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”  And what could be a greater crisis for Washington than running out of spending cash?

So I say that the Republicans in both the House and the Senate simply should have held out for a balanced budget amendment in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. 
The incumbent liberals would have been able to continue their devil-may-care ways for now, leaving their successors with balanced budget restrictions beginning five to seven years down the road; not an ideal compromise, but an effective longterm solution.

To clarify, I am talking about an amendment to the United States Constitution that would require that the federal government not spend more money than it takes in through taxes and other fees.  It is the dissociation of spending and revenues that requires the borrowing, which results in perpetually surpassing the debt ceiling.

The nation has been talking about a balanced budget amendment for years; like 213 years.  The earliest recorded endorsement on the topic seems to be the soon-to-be third President, Thomas Jefferson, criticizing the spending habits of the second President, John Adams.

With the debt ceiling having been raised over 100 times since the Adams administration, we were destined to eventually hit a point when the American voters took notice.  And it follows that the most voracious spender in American history was going to elevate the debt ceiling to be the biggest news story of the year.  Juxtaposed against an aching economy, we have the crisis that should not go to waste.

So what are the odds that a balanced budget amendment could actually make it through every wicket?  Such an amendment ( was introduced in the House on the first day of the 2011-2012 session, with 150 sponsors.

The tallest hurdle is getting such an amendment proposal out of Congress.  The Constitution requires that two-thirds of the House plus two-thirds of the Senate vote to send an amendment on to the states for ratification.  In 1995, the House did pass a balanced budget amendment and the Senate missed passing it by a single vote!  Sixteen years ago, America was that close to heading off the crisis that we face today (What were you thinking, Senator Hatfield?).

The final step to reining in Washington’s frenzied squandering would be for three fourths of the states’ legislatures to vote in favor of the amendment.  Since nine tenths of the states have already voted to maintain a balanced budget for themselves, the odds are good that the states would assert their own responsible discipline onto the federal government.

In a week that Apple Computer is reported to have more cash on hand than the United States Government, I contend that the Hobbits are poised to take Washington, despite the rebuke of John McCain.  

See these top stories from Townhall Finance:

Bill Tatro Inside the Beltway: Where an Increase Becomes a Cut
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