Sparking fresh alarm that the GOP is preparing to take an axe to America’s already inadequate safety net, Politico reported on Wednesday that House Republicans are planning to take up a “balanced budget amendment” when Congress returns from recess—news that comes just months after the GOP passed a tax bill that analysts say could add nearly $2 trillion to the deficit over the next decade.
“A balanced budget amendment is the GOP dream, because it means every tax cut for the rich will ‘force’ them to cut programs for the poor.”
—Josh Mound”A balanced budget amendment is the GOP dream, because it means every tax cut for the rich will ‘force’ them to cut programs for the poor and middle-class,” observed journalist and academic Josh Mound in response to news of the Republican plan, which coincides with reports that GOP is reportedly mulling yet another round of tax cuts later this year.
As Politico notes, the desire to force a vote on a balanced budget amendment—which has been a right-wing goal for decades—is likely the result of Republicans wanting to “be able to say they voted to support balancing the federal budget” ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Since the beginning of the GOP’s push to deliver massive tax cuts to the rich and major corporations disguised as relief for the working class, progressives have warned that key programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are in Republican crosshairs.
Indivisible, an advocacy group that mobilized against the $1.5 trillion tax cut package, termed the GOP’s long-term strategy the “tax two step”: Explode the deficit by slashing taxes for the wealthy, then use the ballooning deficit to justify deep cuts to the safety net.
In the wake of Wednesday’s reports, economists and other commentators argued that the Republicans’ desire to gut programs that serve poor and middle class Americans—a goal that has formed the foundation of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) policy agenda since he was elected—is likely at the center of the party’s “balanced budget” push.
Bruce Bartlett—a historian who by his own admission helped create the GOP myth that tax cuts lead to economic growth—argued that Republicans are also demonstrating their eagerness to “deflect attention” from the fact that their tax bill will dramatically increase the deficit by expressing support for a balanced budget amendment that is unlikely to pass Congress.
In an analysis published earlier this month, Richard Kogan, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, argued that in addition to threatening programs like Social Security, a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution would be “economically dangerous.”
“By requiring a balanced budget every year, no matter the state of the economy, such an amendment would raise serious risks of tipping weak economies into recession and making recessions longer and deeper, causing very large job losses,” Kogan noted. “That’s because the amendment would force policymakers to cut federal programs, raise taxes, or both when the economy is weak or already in recession—the exact opposite of what good economic policy would advise.”