Reps. Mike Pence, Jeb Hensarling, and John Campbell today proposed a constitutional amendment to limit federal spending to 20 percent of GDP. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Pence and Hensarling call it a “spending cap with real teeth.” Washington would be confined to its historic share of the national economy.
The purpose of the amendment is to put a brake on the upward presure on federal spending created by the auto-pilot entitlements, the aging population, and back-to-back big-government presidents and Congreses. Because it focuses on the level of spending rather than just deficits and it is less likely to result in tax increases, the Pence-Hensarling proposal is in many ways superior to the balanced budget amendment touted by Republicans in the 1980s and 1990s. But it suffers from the limitations (no pun intended) of all proposed constitutional amendments: it will be difficult to get out of Congress, difficult to ratify, and it is by definition a goal rather than a specific set of proposals to cut government spending.
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