These are not new ideas. They’re dumbed-down ideas. The first three proposals were all part of Cut, Cap, and Balance, the first and most important conservative-led Republican ransom note on the debt limit. These proposals passed in the House and died in the Senate. No one who paid attention to that manufactured crisis, and how it ended, could look at the incoming, more-Democratic Congress and say “oh, let’s see what these guys think of Cut, Cap, and Balance!” Democrats opposed spending caps and the BBA-with-supermajority-for-tax-hikes because they see no way to enforce that stuff without cutting entitlements. Republicans are wavering on the sequester, which gets us closer to that spending goal, because they realize you need some flexibility on spending in an economic doldrum. Jindal’s just tossing that to the wind, in a profoundly clueless way.
Jindal’s insistence on a balanced budget amendment makes the least sense of his first three proposals. He mentions that states have balanced budget laws, but he neglects to mention that it has been the cuts in state and local spending that have been a major drag on the recovery. He ignores that the reduction in public employment at the state and local level that these cuts required is one of the things that drove the unemployment rate so high. In the same op-ed, he insists that all actions taken by Washington should be viewed in terms of whether they help grow the economy, but then insists on pushing for a balanced budget amendment that would require the federal government to respond to economic contraction in the same way that the states have had to do for the last four years.
Not only is a balanced budget amendment not something wort fighting for right now, but it is an idea that doesn’t even meet Jindal’s own standard for judging the actions of the federal government. The amendment is a relic of debates of the 1990s. I doubt very much that it is “an idea that is supported by virtually every American who does not live in the 202 area code.” On the contrary, I suspect it is an idea that very few people outside Washington ever think about or consider. Jindal’s op-ed is unfortunately a classic example of ignoring trade-offs between different policy choices and refusing to set priorities among them.