“Don’t worry; just drive right through here.” Gage Skidmore / Flickr.com

You know that truck-sized gap in Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge that I was talking about? The one where lawmakers who are hamstrung by this pledge just go ahead and spend the money anyway? A couple of libertarian/conservative activists have noticed this, and they’ve set about closing the gap.

Josh Boak of The Fiscal Times reports on Jonathan Bydlak and Peter Schiff of the Coalition to Reduce Spending and its new three-point pledge:

The pledge commits lawmakers to: 1.) Vote against any budget that isn’t balanced or any bill that increases net spending; 2.) Be willing to cut expenditures for all government programs, and 3.) Reject any increase in the government’s borrowing capacity. Only congressional authorizations for military force are exempt from the pledge.

Boak’s piece continues:

The mechanism of [Norquist’s] pledge impresses Bydlak, but he recognizes that there were negative side effects from simply blocking higher taxes: The government turned more toward borrowing, rather than bringing down spending.

Federal outlays totaled about $1 trillion after Norquist founded his group in 1986, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. Spending this year topped $3.7 trillion, almost double what it should have been if the federal budget tracked inflation. The annual debts during that time are just shy of $9 trillion, as deficits replaced tax hikes.

“You’ve had this unintended consequence where you allowed high spending to occur,” Bydlak said. “If there is still a feeding tube being stuffed down the beast’s throat, you’re not really starving the beast. That feeding tube is borrowing and the issue of new bonds.”

For the record, I think a statutorily required balanced budget is a stupid idea, and that anyone who signs this new pledge is terrifically insane and should therefore be disqualified from public office.

Other than that, it’s a significant improvement on Norquist’s porous pledge.