by David M. Primo
Mercatus Center
July 24, 2014
The United States’ fiscal trajectory must change. A constitutional amendment, if properly designed, could provide that change. The promise of a constitutional amendment as an enforcement mechanism lies in its durability, but this durability is also a peril: bad rules can be locked-in just as good rules can be. Thus, a constitutional amendment must be flexible enough to account for major disruptions. To avoid “emergencies” becoming routine, large supermajorities should be required to waive the amendment’s spending or deficit limits. An amendment must also be precise enough to prevent illegitimate end runs around its provisions. It must clearly define spending and revenue, and specify how those figures will be calculated. Finally, the amendment should account for economic ups-and-downs by setting targets or limits based on a multi-year period or on long-term economic performance. With such an amendment in place, fiscal stability – not political uncertainty – would become the norm in America.

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