December 18, 2011
The idea is simple: Congress would enact a limit on the annual federal budget, similar to the total limit on national debt (the “debt ceiling”). Any time Congress wants to spend more money than it did the previous year (or rather, more than the existing statutory limit), it has to pass a law (duly agreed by both houses and signed by the president) raising the spending limit.
In a way, it would be no more difficult to increase spending (which the federal government reliably does every year) than it is now—either way, it is done by an act of Congress, signed by the president (or with an override of his veto). In important other ways, however, it would be more difficult to increase spending: The target federal budget would be a fixed number, visible to the public, subject to debate, and thus politically more difficult to change—think of the debt-ceiling fight earlier this year, or the fight (continuing to this day) over the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.