It’s hard not to be cynical when something like this happens. The House just passed “The Require A Plan Act” – H.R.444 – which “compels” the president to submit a balanced budget by April 1st. Yup. That’ll fix it. The president will be sure to act on it right away, just as soon as the bill passes the Senate.
Oops. The Senate is going to ignore it.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) called it for exactly what it is: “a political gimmick.”
Meanwhile the government continues to operate without a budget, just as it has for years. According to the Government Executive,
The administration on Monday missed the annual deadline to submit its budget recommendation for fiscal 2014, citing uncertainty over the fiscal cliff and sequestration as reasons for the delay. The administration’s proposal is expected sometime in March, though it’s not clear when exactly.
Some in the House are “urging” cooperation in balancing the budget. Here’s House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.):
The House has developed a plan to balance the budget, and we voted on it twice. This year, we intend to improve on that plan and balance the budget even sooner than our prior proposals called for, within ten years. But we can’t do it alone. We need to have the cooperation of the president and the other body to make any meaningful progress.
Why would the “other body” pay any attention to what’s going on in the House? They’ve merrily ignored any and all attempts to create a balanced budget, so why would they start now?
Besides, who would benefit if such a miraculous event were to take place? The Washington Post attempted to answer that question a quarter of a century ago:
Most economists agree that balancing the federal budget, if government really manages to pull it off, would prompt interest rates to fall, savings and investment to rise, the trade deficit to shrink and the economy to grow faster over a longer period of time.
[This would then mean that] future generations would not be required to lower their standard of living so the current generation can continue to live beyond its means.
But someone would be hurt: those enjoying the transfer of wealth from those who earned it to those who didn’t:
[A balanced budget] also entails cuts in government spending, [and so] a good number of Americans would lose something, particularly lower-income Americans who rely disproportionately on government services and income support programs.
This would create backlash and possible threats to incumbents at the next election. Let’s just leave things alone.
That’s why H.R. 444 is such a waste of time.