Not content to push for a balanced-budget constitutional amendment in his own state, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has endorsed the idea of a federal constitutional amendment to require Congress to pass balanced budgets every year. The Wall Street Journal’s Amy Merrick observes,
Previous efforts to pass a national balanced-budget amendment have foundered in Congress. Many lawmakers believe deficit spending can help boost the U.S. economy during downturns, and calls to balance the budget sometimes fade as other priorities surface.
It would be insane to restrict the federal government’s ability to run deficits during a recession. That’s not just something many members of Congress “believe,” it’s a consensus view among economists. But don’t worry, Pawlenty isn’t entirely rigid on the subject of deficit spending:
Mr. Pawlenty’s proposal for a federal amendment would include exceptions for war, natural disasters and other emergencies. The U.S. has been at war for most of the past decade.
No self-respecting Republican ever let spending worries stand in the way of a blank check for war.
Although it’s tempting to laugh at Pawlenty’s proposal, I think highlighting the budget amendment could boost his standing in the 2012 presidential race. His idea isn’t outside the GOP mainstream; leading Republicans proposed a federal spending freeze instead of the stimulus bill Congress passed in February. Republican politicians in Iowa have also embraced Hoovernomics.
The idea could prove popular with the GOP rank and file too. Mike Huckabee gained a lot of traction in Iowa during the summer of 2007 by being the only Republican to endorse the so-called “fair tax.” That idea is even wackier than a federal spending freeze during a recession, but many caucus-goers embraced it.
Any comments about Pawlenty’s prospects or the Republican presidential field are welcome in this thread.