Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is one of these guys who you keep hearing is a smart innovative thinker likely to bring new ideas to the Republican Party. New ideas, I guess, like a Balanced Budget Amendmentfeaturing an asymetrical preference for spending cuts over tax increases as the centerpiece of the agenda he lays out in a new Politico op-ed aimed at a DC audience.
Not only is that a bad idea on the merits, it’s just about the hoariest conservative dogma you can imagine. Jindal’s proposal is essentially the same as the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act the House GOP pushed in 2011. Not only did Bob Dole run on a Balanced Budget Amendment in 1996, he did so bragging that he’d been pushing for a Balanced Budget Amendment since 1971. It is entirely possible that this really was an innovative policy stance when Dole embraced it a bit over forty years ago—it doesn’t seem to have been in the 1964 GOP platform for example—but that was a long time ago.
Not only is putting the federal government in a fiscal straightjacket a terrible idea, but even people with strong free market leanings should seriously pause before considering the kind of arbitrary spending caps that Jindal is touting here. You have to understand that a statutory or even constitutional budget rule doesn’t eliminate public demand for certain kinds of social welfare provision. It simply constrains how can obtain that social welfare provision typically by pushing it in inefficient directions. Social Security, for example, is a much better idea than trying to create a regulatory mandate for employer-provided pensions.