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Iowa groups call for vote against balanced budget amendment

A coalition of 10 Iowa groups have joined with numerous national organizations in one unified call against passage of a balanced budget amendment.

The groups signed a letter (PDF), dated July 15 and sent to members of Congress, that stated in part “a balanced budget constitutional amendment would damage the economy, not strengthen it.”

Iowa signatories are:

Paullina Monthly Meeting

Methodist Federation for Social Action, Iowa Chapter

JC & Associate

Iowa State Education Association

Iowa Policy Project

Iowa Environmental Council

Iowa Book Works

Children & Families of Iowa

Child and Family Policy Center

AFSCME Iowa Council 61

The entire list of national signatories encompasses more than 600 organizations who believe that passage of such an amendment would result in more frequent and harsher recessions and significantly less ability for government officials to react to economic sways. They urge both spending cuts and revenue increases as part of a “responsible deficit reduction plan.”

What the groups encourage is in opposition to Iowa House Republicans, who sent their own letter to Congressional leaders to encourage swift passage of a balanced budget amendment “to prevent serious damage to the national economy.”

Federal lawmakers are facing an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the nation’s debt-ceiling. Federal Republicans have said a balanced budget amendment is key to their support for raising the limit. President Barack Obama has signaled he will veto any such amendment.

The coalition’s letter is copied below:

The undersigned national organizations strongly urge you to oppose any balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.

A balanced budget constitutional amendment would damage the economy, not strengthen it. Demanding that policymakers cut spending and/or raise taxes, even when the economy slows, is the opposite of what is needed to stabilize a weak economy and avert recessions. Such steps would risk tipping a faltering economy into recession or worsening an ongoing downturn, costing large numbers of jobs while blocking worthy investments to stimulate jobs and growth and address the nation’s urgent needs in infrastructure and other areas.

Furthermore, the version of the balanced budget amendment that the House Judiciary Committee recently approved (H. J. Res. 1) would impose an arbitrary and severe cap on total federal spending, which, remarkably, would require much deeper cuts than the draconian cuts in the Ryan budget resolution. The bill also would require supermajority votes in the House and Senate to increase the debt limit, waive the balanced budget requirement — or to raise any taxes, including closing the most egregious tax loopholes. This irresponsible requirement would create an extremely steep hurdle to raising any revenues — effectively blocking revenue measures even as part of packages to restore long-term solvency to Social Security and Medicare — while protecting the more than $1 trillion a year in “tax expenditures” and forcing severe program cuts.

In short, this amendment is a recipe for making recessions more frequent, longer, and deeper, while requiring severe cuts that would harshly affect seniors, children, veterans, people with disabilities, homeland security activities, public safety, environmental protection, education and medical research. It would almost certainly necessitate massive cuts to vital programs including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits and other programs, and, as noted, lead to even deeper cuts than the House-passed budget.

A responsible deficit reduction plan must embrace both spending cuts and new revenues, including curbing special-interest tax loopholes, not a one-sided reliance on spending cuts.

A balanced budget amendment has no place in the Constitution of the United States. Our Constitution has served the nation well because it represents enduring principles that are the foundations of our government. It should not be used as a substitute for real leadership on fiscal policy.

We strongly urge you to oppose any constitutional balanced budget amendment.

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