It seems to make sense: families have to live within their means. State and local governments have to live within their means. Why not the U.S. government, too? But as John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out in The Affluent Society, “conventional wisdom” — premises that everyone generally holds as true — are usually unexamined and often false.
A balanced budget amendment, promoted by Republicans in Congress as a necessary component of federal debt reform, would have the unintended (or maybe intended) consequence of hog-tying Congress’ budgeting ability, especially in the face of a recession.