Poll: Vast Majority of Americans Favor Balanced Budget Amendment

A poll conducted by the Sachs/Mason-Dixon organization suggests that there is overwhelming support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring a balanced budget. The balanced budget amendment is a proposal dating from the Reagan years.

The key finding of the poll is “81 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents and 45 percent of Democrats support a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” 46 percent of the American people would be more likely to vote for a political candidate favoring a balanced budget amendment and 21 percent would be less likely. Overall, 65 percent of the American people support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Such an amendment would require that the federal budget be balanced with exceptions made for time of war or some other serious national emergency. Some versions of the proposal would allow Congress to suspend the amendment by super majority vote.

Most states have their own version of balanced budget requirements, which has sometimes resulted in painful political wrangles over budget cuts and tax increases during times of economic distress or in the wake of legislative profligate spending.

A balanced budget amendment has been a perennial favorite of conservatives, as it would create a constitutional barrier to deficit spending. It was introduced in the early 1980s and again in the late 1990s, but fell short of the required two-thirds majority required to gain approval and be sent to the states for ratification.

Interest in enacting a balanced budget amendment clearly has spiked due to the unprecedented increase of budget deficits in excess of $1.6 trillion. However, barriers to an enactment remain.

The same Congress that has enacted spending programs that have resulted in the mind-numbing deficits of the Obama years would be unlikely to pass a measure that would make it unconstitutional for that body to do so. The current House might be able to pass a balanced budget amendment, but the Senate, still controlled by Democrats, almost certainly would not be able to do so.

How to get to a balanced budget without a constitutional mandate to do so is unclear. Entitlement reform would certainly be necessary to meet such a goal. But even if the stars align and Congress is able to reform entitlements, bring down their cost, and close the deficit, the problem of maintaining a balanced budget year after year indefinitely, without an amendment to the constitution to mandate it, could prove very daunting. The balanced budgets of the late 1990s evaporated with the bust of the dot.com bubble and the advent of the war on terror.

Source: Sachs/Mason-Dixon Poll Finds Strong National Support For a Balanced Budget Amendment , Sachs/Mason-Dixon Poll, May 27, 2011