“Did Herbert Hoover win the last election?” he said in his prepared remarks to the committee .” If, in the middle of a recession, when tax revenues are down, and unemployment is up, we begin to slash the budget in ways my Republican colleagues are now suggesting, much less the far more draconian measures that this amendment would require, we will go from the Great Recession, right into another Great Depression. It’s been tried before, and if we want the Constitution to enshrine Hooverism for all time, we will get what we deserve.”
Of course, it is Nadler’s own Democratic president, Barack Obama, who has echoed many of these calls to slash federal budgets.
Full Nadler remarks below:
“Mr. Chairman, we’ve all been down this road before. My Republican friends love constitutional amendments. For any complaint, there is a constitutional amendment. It is not, however, a free vote. If adopted, a balanced budget amendment would have catastrophic consequences for the nation, for the economy, and for the future. While it would be nice to have some easy way to force a balanced budget, the world doesn’t work that way.
“We know how to balance the budget and we already have all the tools we need to do it. In the not-too-distant-past, we managed not only to balance the budget, but to run surpluses and begin paying down the debt. That’s what you do in good times, you pay down the debt.
“Unfortunately, thanks to President Bush and a Republican Congress, we managed to turn record surpluses into record deficits in record time.
“How did we do it?
“There were the huge tax cuts for the very wealthy. Then there were the two wars fought off-budget. I don’t recall hearing a peep from any of my colleagues on the other side who are now born-again fiscal conservatives. In fact, Vice President Cheney said, “[w]e’ve learned that deficits don’t matter.” That summed up the Republican attitude during the Bush Administration. Having the regulators go to sleep while financial manipulators, banks and hedge funds crashed the economy killed off revenues and we still haven’t recovered from that.
“But rather than admit to serious economic mismanagement, and looking for ways to straighten things out, we get this dusted off coward’s approach, instead of doing the hard work to restore the economy and balance the budget with appropriate tax fairness for the rich and appropriate cuts to the budget – in defense, for example. If we took that approach, some of my Republican colleagues might not have to endure another town hall where angry constituents want to know why you voted to destroy Medicare.
“Strangest of all, some of the balanced budget amendment bills call for balancing the budget by 2016, even though the Republican budget the House recently passed doesn’t project a balanced budget until 2040.
“The amendment that we voted out of Committee would require a three-fifths vote by Congress to exceed a balanced budget. That should lead to some really history-making horse trading. Can you imagine what the holdouts will get in exchange for passing the budget? It will make anything we do now look like child’s play.
“Really troubling is the proposal to require a three-fifths vote to raise the debt limit. Do the sponsors really want to reduce U.S. Treasury notes to junk bond status? Do you think anyone will buy our paper if this becomes law? I wouldn’t.
“This amendment also treats military engagements as the only true emergencies requiring the budget to be out of balance. That shows a poor understanding of history and of economics.
“Did Herbert Hoover win the last election? If, in the middle of a recession, when tax revenues are down, and unemployment is up, we begin to slash the budget in ways my Republican colleagues are now suggesting, much less the far more draconian measures that this amendment would require, we will go from the Great Recession, right into another Great Depression. It’s been tried before, and if we want the Constitution to enshrine Hooverism for all time, we will get what we deserve.
“Let’s manage the budget the old fashioned way: by making hard choices, by promoting growth, and by making everyone pay their fair share of taxes, including billionaires and oil companies. It isn’t fun, and it won’t make us a lot of friends, but we’ve done it before, and we can do it again. It only requires the courage of your own convictions, to face the voters with the actual budget you are proposing.
“And, finally, whatever your think of the substance of these proposed amendments, it is fundamentally wrong to bind future generations and the Congresses they elect to a particular economic doctrine which may be popular today. The Constitution should provide procedures for government, and should protect individual rights, but should not lock in policies. Whatever anyone may think of the debt, or how to reduce it, or the proper level of government expenditures as a percentage of GDP, those policies ought to be enacted as legislation – which can be modified, amended, or repealed by future majorities – not enshrined in the Constitution, to bind future generations to the opinions of this generation. That is fundamentally anti-democratic and tyrannical