The Instigator
Pro (for)
9 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
7 Points

Balanced Budget Amendment

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Post Voting Period
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after 4 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/6/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,172 times Debate No: 32155
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (6)
Votes (4)




Thank you, AStevenson, for accepting this debate. I wish you the best of luck in this debate.

Resolved: The US Should Adopt a Balanced Budget Amendment


1) Balanced Budget Amendment - A BBA requires congress to pass a balanced budget for each fiscal year. Currently, there is debate going on in the House and Senate between different versions of the amendment. There is very little difference between the two, however for sake of the debate, I will use the Senate's version found at; Also important to note, the BBA gives exception in times of war in relationship to defense spending.

2) Balanced Budget - The overall amount of spending within a budget is equal to or less than the revenue brought in.
3) Should - Ought, is proper

4) Adopt - Put into place


1) Acceptance
2) Opening Statements (ONLY)
3) Rebuttals
4) Rebuttals/Closing Statments


1) If special circumstances arise, one side may ask the other to wait out his or her remaining time.
2) No forfeiting or plagarism is acceptable.
3) Please structure and format your arguments in a way that is easy to follow.
4) No trolling - debaters should have adaquet debating experience.
5) Failure to abide by any points above will result in an automatic loss


Ok, now we can have a good debate!
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting this debate on the Balanced Budget Amendment. As another war on the debt limit is looming over us and the fiscal cliff just barely passed over us, we need some serious thoughts on ways to reduce the deficit. One of my proposals is a Balanced Budget Amendment.

Pro 1: The BBA Addresses Chronic Deficit

For the past several years, the United States has been running deficits upwards of $1 trillion or more and there is no end in sight. We are in a period of chronic deficit and it is deficit that we can no longer sustain. As John Adams purportedly said, “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a country. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” [1] These words reign true to this day as we are seeing what is happening in the European Debt Crisis. Figure 1-1 shows how bad the debt has become.

Federal Spending by the Numbers 2012

Sources: Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the U.S. Government, FY 2013: Historical Tables, Table 1.1, February 2012, <br /><br /><br /></span></p>
<p><span style=So, let’s put this into a different perspective. What if the average income family spent like the federal government? Figure 2-1 shows what the consequences would be of such a family.

In 2010, median family income was $51,360. If a typical family followed the federal government's lead, it would spend $73,319 and put 30 cents of every dollar spent on a credit card. This family would have racked up $325,781 in credit card debt"like a mortgage, only without the house. What credit card company would continue lending money to this family?

Figure 2-1

The data from this graph is from 2010 where the median income family was $51,360.00. If a typical family followed the government’s lead, it would therefore spend 30 cents of every dollar on credit card. This means that the family would have racked up $325,781 in credit card debt – a total equivalent to that of an entire mortgage, only without the house. Who would allow such a family to continue borrowing from them? [3] If such spending is not right for a typical family – what then justifies the federal government to spend in such a manner?

What is the main cause of this problem? It isn’t that we don’t have enough revenue – we simply have too much spending. Figure 3-1 shows the revenue to spending relationships

The main driver behind long-term deficits is government spending, not low revenue. While revenue will surpass its historical average of 18.1 percent of GDP by 2018, spending remains above its historical average of 20.2 percent, reaching 22.1 percent by 2022, even after $2.1 trillion in spending cuts in the Budget Control Act.

Figure 3-1 [4]

As we can see from the above graph, the deficit is government spending – not low revenue. In fact, revenue will surpass the historical average by 2018, spending will still remain even well above that, even after the $2.1 trillion in cuts under the Budget Control Act of 2011.

So, why is the BBA appropriate for this chronic deficit problem? Because it addresses the real problem, which is overspending by the government.

Pro 2: Flaw in Democracy

One of the great flaws in democracy was attributed to Edmund Burke in 1754 (emphasis added) [5]:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.

The BBA is one way to fix the flaw in democracy because it limits the amount of money that can come from the public treasure.


The United States should adopt and pass a BBA because it immediately addresses our chronic deficit and spending problems which threaten economic viability of our nation. Secondly, a BBA is appropriate because it fixes the flaws in a democracy by limiting the amount of money that can be taken from the public treasury.

[2] Courtesy of

[3] Image and caption provided by

[4] Image 3-1 is courtesy of

[5] Quoted in;

Note, if there are any problems with the links above, go to;



My Arguments

War and National Emergencies

When a country is at war, it has to spend a large amount of money. We did so in every war we spent on. President Franklin Roosevelt had to raise spending by a lot in order to win World War 2. We needed to go into debt to fight this war because had we balanced the budget we would have not had the money to fight in it.

World War 2 is not the only war we fought in, we must also look at the Cold War, which was mainly won by the actions of Ronald Reagan. After Reagan, George H.W. Bush went to war with Iraq which spent that we needed to keep up a lot of spending. After the war Bill Clinton became president, but because he had no wars to deal with he could reduce military spending and debt as well.

Finally, after 9/11, both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama did the responsible thing and raised spending on the military, but due to the ways the terrorists acted, the Department of Homeland Security and other domestic security measures were needed. Like with Roosevelt, Reagan, and the elder Bush, our two most recent presidents need to raise spending in time of war. This can been seen here:

click="document.location='/AStevenson/photos/album/2327/16455/'" src="../../../photos/albums/1/3/2327/71662-2327-97emr-a.jpg" alt="Debt from the modern presidencies." />

However, we should not just look at wars, what about other disasters? Hurricanes and other natural disasters all require government assistance. What if a disease comes and spreads worse and is more deadly than the Bubonic Plague? The government must respond to it. This means that we need money.

Economics and Revenue

Whenever we go into an economic recession, the government loses revenue. As we have seen in 1929 and 2008, recessions can be unexpected. Traditionally, when a recession occurs then we need to relieve the poor. It happened in 1933 with the rise of Franklin Roosevelt and it happened in 2008 with the rise of Barack Obama. This means that the government must take immediate action to fix the recession and that means spend money. This can be even worse when you maybe in the middle of a recession and at war. What about tax cuts? They usually make you lose revenue. Ronald Reagan signed a tax cut in 1981, but revenue dropped. What if this dropped passed the amount of revenue need for spending? Then we would be in debt. I got that from here:

click="document.location='/AStevenson/photos/album/2327/16454/'" src="../../../photos/albums/1/3/2327/71662-2327-vpmn3-a.jpg" alt="Government Revenue" />

Congress Breaks a lot of Amendments

Congress has broken several constitutional amendments over the years that may have been unpopular, but still happened. This has angered generally everyone, but it still happens. How is a balanced budget amendment going to be any different. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2


Thank you for your swift reply.

Con 1: War and National Emergencies

I agree with con's point here. As I pointed out in the first round, the Balanced Budget Amendment provides provisions for such an event:

Section 7. The Congress may waive the provisions of sections 1, 2, 3, and 5 of this article in any fiscal year in which the United States is engaged in a military conflict that causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security and is so declared by three-fifths of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress by a roll call vote. Such suspension must identify and be limited to the specific excess of outlays for that fiscal year made necessary by the identified military conflict.

An obvious objection should be "What stops congress from declaring wars just to have extra deficits?" This is an excellent point that I can foresee my opponent bringing up in the next round. I think that there should be extra provisions: Had the United States have NOT been involved with wars or a national emergency, then the proposed budget would be balanced.

Con 2: Recessions

My opponent argues that during recessions, government ought to stimulate the economy and help the overall economy to grow. However, FDR’s New Deal prolonged the Great Depression

"The fact that the Depression dragged on for years convinced generations of economists and policy-makers that capitalism could not be trusted to recover from depressions and that significant government intervention was required to achieve good outcomes," Cole said. "Ironically, our work shows that the recovery would have been very rapid had the government not intervened.";

The Wall Street Journal writes

“The main lesson we have learned from the New Deal is that wholesale government intervention can -- and does -- deliver the most unintended of consequences. This was true in the 1930s, when artificially high wages and prices kept us depressed for more than a decade, it was true in the 1970s when price controls were used to combat inflation but just produced shortages. It is true today, when poorly designed regulation produced a banking system that took on too much risk.”;

We can also use Japan as a way of measuring failed economic stimulus and government interventions. Japan responded to a 1990 recession by passing 10 stimulus spending bills over 8 years, thus building up the largest national debt in the industrialized world, yet its economy remained stagnant.[9]

Con 3: Congress breaks a lot of Amendments

This argument is a non sequitur. I agree that congress (sadly) breaks a lot of amendments, though that doesn't mean we should have this place. Using my opponent's logic, we would therefore be a dictatorship and have no constitution and no bill of rights at all. That is something neither myself nor my opponent would like!


My Arguments

I. War and National Emergencies

I am glad to here that the balanced budget is allowed to be broken in case of military or other massive national emergencies. However, this ignores times when a high a military budget is needed that even exceeds the total federal revenue. Ronald Reagan knew how to defeat the Soviet Union and the only way possible to compete with the Soviets in the military to raise spending, train the troops, build the fleet, and create SDI. The good news is that we now have no Soviet Union, but in the case of a future second cold war as well as the protection in our era of global terrorism, we need a military build-up. I always put the welfare of the American people first, but we also need to make sure they're protected. So even sometimes when we are not in military conflict, we might need a high military just in case. [1]

I do feel that my opponent did not properly address national emergencies. When a hurricane hits, a tornado strikes, or a snow storm falls then the government should send assistance to help the innocent creatures stuck in this emergency. This means we need to spend money even if it does mean going into debt for the benefit of helping the American people.

II. Recessions

What we see from this graph ( is the sudden drops in recessions. When a budget is balanced and a recession comes, revenue has historically dropped. We see this is many cases: the 1920 recession, 1981 recession, 2000 recession, and the 2008 recession. However, the most notable in my opinion is the 1948 recession where we saw a massive drop in revenue that has not been seen since.

We are not just discussing if FDR's New Deal was right or wrong. I argued that traditionally the poor needed to be relieved in some way when in recession. FDR tried a New Deal and this led to more debt, Obama tried a stimulus and this led to new debt, Reagan passed a massive tax cut and this led to new debt (along with keeping the Soviets at bay), and Harding passed a massive tax cut and this dropped revenue until Coolidge could get it together. Whenever an action is issued in a recession, there is a cost. In this case, the cost is revenue which could lead to the rise of debt.

III. Congress Breaks the Constitution

I am not arguing that breaking the Constitution is wrong, but I am arguing if this amendment will be efficient. If Congress keeps breaking amendments then this proves that there is a lack of efficency in enforcing the Constitution. The balanced budget amendment willd be no different.


1. Armchair General, "Ronald Reagan's Cold War." 2012.
Debate Round No. 3


Thank you for your swift response. My opponent has not yet responded to any of my opening arguments in favor of the Balanced Budget Amendment. I ask that he does so in the next post.

War and National Emergencies

I agree that there are times when a high military budget is needed such as during the Cold War. However, both Section 6 and 7, as I already noted, give provisions:

  • Section 6. The Congress may waive the provisions of sections 1, 2, 3, and 5 of this article for any fiscal year in which a declaration of war against a nation-state is in effect and in which a majority of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress shall provide for a specific excess by a roll call vote.
  • Section 7. The Congress may waive the provisions of sections 1, 2, 3, and 5 of this article in any fiscal year in which the United States is engaged in a military conflict that causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security and is so declared by three-fifths of the duly chosen and sworn Members of each House of Congress by a roll call vote. Such suspension must identify and be limited to the specific excess of outlays for that fiscal year made necessary by the identified military conflict.

During natural emergencies, such as during a tornado or during something like Hurricane Sandy, the federal government should provide some help, however there ought to be strict guidelines for giving out money during these times. For example, there was a ton of fraud related to the Hurricane Katrina package that cost tax payers more than 2 billion dollars. Fraud included pay for Caribbean vacations, NFL tickets, Dom Perignon champagne, ‘Girls Gone Wild’ videos, and at least one sex change operation [1]


The FDR example was not to prove that Roosevelt, or his new deal was wrong, but just to back up the claim that government spending and stimulus spending does NOT relieve, reform, or recover from a recession.

It is certainly true that government loses revenue during recession (the worst thing possible during a recession is raising taxes and increase spending!). As the page for economics reports, there are several factors that lead to this [2]:

  1. 1. The economy goes into recession, costing many workers their jobs, and at the same time causing corporate profits to decline. This causes less income tax revenue to flow to the government, along with less corporate income tax revenue. Occasionally the flow of income to the government will still grow, but at a slower rate than inflation, meaning that flow of tax revenue has fallen in real terms.
  2. 2. Because many workers have lost their jobs, there is increased use of government programs, such as unemployment insurance. Government spending rises as more individuals are calling on government services to help them out through tough times.
  3. 3. To help push the economy out of recession and to help those who have lost their jobs, governments often create new social programs during times of recession and depression. FDR's "New Deal" of the 1930s is a prime example of this. Government spending then rises, not just because of increased use of existing programs, but through the creation of new programs.

Because of factors one, the government receives less money from taxpayers, while factors two and three, the government spends more money. Money starts flowing out of the government faster than it comes in, causing the government's budget to go into deficit.

Congress Breaks Amendments

Extend arguments.

  1. and


My Arguments

National Emergencies

I agree with my opponent that things like NFL tickets and "Girls Gone Wild" videos should not be included in the spending, but that does not resolve the aid can bring us into debt. Nevertheless, it is the government's responsibility to help the peopleand that is why aid is sent.

Here's an example. Let's say that when Hurricane Sandy struck, the government made $2.5 trillion and spent $2.5 trillion. This would be the situtation in which we would be under a balanced budget. Congress sent $51 billion in aid to help the victims. This would mean that we would have to go into debt to help the people hurt by this disaster. [1]


Even if my opponent disagrees that spending does not work to fix recessions, that does not change that Congress will still take action and do it. Even when recessions come, there is a sudden drop in revenue as my graphs have shown (if no one can find them check my gallery). This sudden drop in revenue puts the nation in debt and breaks the amendment. In addition, tax cuts drop revenue, so that's a mistake. Basically, the government would be force to sit and do nothing to help the people while the recession intensifies.

Amendments and Congress

The problem here is how efficient the amendment will be and if Congress will obey. Congress and the presidents over time have broke several constitutional amendments. What makes this amendment any different that it will be obeyed. This makes the constitutional amendment inefficient to be effective and my opponent has not proven how the amendment can remain efficient enough to not be broken. [2]


Debate Round No. 4


My opponent has failed to respond to ANY of my original arguments and ask the voters to take that into consideration as you vote.

As this is the final round, I would like to make a summary of several points in this debate:

1) The federal budget is recording chronic deficits and needs to be balanced
2) The BBA fixes a flaw in democracy
3) The BBA allows leeway and exceptions for wars and national emergencies
4) The BBA allows for the national debt to be no more than 20% of the GDP - not 0 as my opponent claims

My opponent has not contested any of my arguments and hereby urge a pro vote.


OK. You guys read my arguments and my opponent's. You guys vote on who won.
Debate Round No. 5
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by GWL-CPA 5 years ago

Admirable statements without action are useless rhetoric.

I don"t share your optimism that the quality of folks joining this site will improve, nor the questions posted. My fears about this generation are being confirmed by what I have read here.

I have two step-children, girl 21, and boy 16 and have met many of their friends and observed them in high school. Very frightening! They are like little children in adult bodies that have no clue. I am part of the baby boomer generation, my wife is generation X; we both acted like adults by the time we were 16 and understood responsibility.

I may do two more debates just so I can vote; but, most likely I will participate less.
Posted by Grantmac18 5 years ago
@GWL-CPA Hear, admirable statement, though I do hope you continue to contribute to DDO. The Philistinism observed as of late cannot and should not become the norm.
Posted by GWL-CPA 5 years ago
I couldn't vote because I don't have three debates, which is a joke because I refuse to debate here anymore because it is a joke.

I would have voted for the Con, and he would have won.

The Federal Budget was never meant to be balanced. There are many reasons for running a deficit. The Federal Government is not like a business.

Unless, you understand governmental accounting and have had college courses in that subject, you probably have no clue how the budgeting works. I am a CPA and have had governmental accounting courses.

AStevenson you won this debate.

Republicans, Tea Parties and Libertarians have no clue how to run the government and that includes taxing the wealthy trillions more, including a onetime tax of 99% on estates and trust over 1 million that have not paid their fair share of taxes in the last 100 years. And, if the corporations had to pay their fair share too, we would not have a deficit now; blame that AH Cowboy Ronnie Reagan and Bush for the mess we are in. The Bush Presidents for unfunded wars to protect their oil interests.

The Plutocracy is destroying America, but Congress is controlled by the wealthy and they will not bite the hand that feeds them, and at least 215 of them are multi-millionaires, who will not raise taxes on themselves. The USA government is corrupt, and most likely will only be changed by a revolution with power being given to the working class, the 99%
Posted by 16kadams 5 years ago
Fail. Con for national security assumes a balanced budget amendment causes a fully balanced budget. It allows for a debt of 20% of GDP, not 0% as he assumes, invalidating his point on "we can't spend any more!" For sandy!
Posted by DoubtingDave 5 years ago
OK I will.
Posted by AStevenson 5 years ago
My pictures don't work, just look at the two in my album.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by medv4380 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:15 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro insisted on conflating National Security with Natural Disaster to avoid Cons argument. The behavior of Budget Hawks in Congress over Sandy showed that this is an issue. Pro also used a revenue and spending chart with an obvious error. Even if there is a correlation there it is not direct one to one correlation, as shown by your own data, but the "projections" are based off of a one to one correlation. This is an obvious error. I'm going to count the issue with cons images displaying as Spelling and Grammar since it could have been caught in the Review stage.
Vote Placed by jackintosh 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This is a tough one for me. on the one hand, yes we should have a BBA, but on the other I have a hard time with austerity measures. Also Paul Krugman is one of the top economists, and has been vindicated in his support for economic stimulus time and time again. Con, did not do a great job, and Pro did a much better job of really convincing me of the merits of the BBA. I am looking forward to more debates about this and more of my own research!!
Vote Placed by Grantmac18 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: A well done debate by some very young DDO members, concerning an issue with great complexity. That being said, S&G was equal as was conduct; I award arguments a tie, due to Pro's heavy reliance on sources (some extremely questionable ex:, and Con's concession on many points. However, it was Pro's complete reliance on biased third party quotes to substantiate his claims of government spending in times of recession that caused me to award sources to Con. One need only observe the strength of European markets and their pursuit of austerity, to cast significant doubt onto Pro's position.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con made fairly weak arguments. The only good point is military. Pro demolished recession showing spending is the worst option during recession. He noted spending cuts coupled with tax cuts are likely a better option. Con offered a point on military noting we may need to maintain a large military (arent you liberal?) for possible emergency. Pro noted increases in spending for war are allowed, but a large military may be bad. However, cutting other expenses may allow us to have a decent sized military. And con dropped all of pros points, so pro won hands down.