The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council is opposed to current efforts to enact a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
While the NJCRAC acknowledges that action is needed to substantially reduce the federal deficit, amending the Constitution is neither a sound mechanism for achieving this goal, nor is it wise public policy. The organized Jewish community views amending the Constitution, for any purpose, as a matter not to be taken lightly. Deficit reduction can and should be achieved through the legislative process, not by permanent codification in the U.S. Constitution of any one economic formula.
Requiring a balanced budget every year, regardless of whether economic growth is weak or strong, would mean spending cuts for vital programs, or tax increases, that would be larger in periods of slow growth than in times of rapid growth, precisely the opposite of what many economists argue should be done to stabilize the economy and avert recession. Further, Congressional Budget Office forecasts indicate that bringing the deficit to zero by 1999, as the proposed amendment stipulates, would require massive budget cuts. Added to the deficit reduction package of nearly $500 billion enacted earlier this year, these drastic measures would severely slow economic growth, costing jobs, and requiring substantial cutbacks in government programs, which serve low, moderate and middle income families.
Given the size of deficit reduction required, those programs serving the weakest constituents would likely lose most heavily. Low-income and needy Americans would shoulder a disproportionate share of the deficit reduction burden. Deep cuts to federal programs such as Head Start, housing, services to the disabled, and programs serving children and the elderly are at greatest risk. The NJCRAC views the impact of such action with deep concern.
Therefore, we call upon Congress to reject the legislation currently before it (S.J. Res. 41 and H.J. Res 103), which proposes to amend the U.S. Constitution for purposes of balancing the federal budget.