Use Article V to Solve the Debt Crisis

 

Over the last few decades, no force on earth has been able to halt the explosive growth of US federal debt.

At the conclusion of WWII, fiscal conservatives were aghast that our national debt had ballooned to $259 billion. By the end of the Vietnam war it stood at $533 billion and, despite urgent warnings, was over $5,674 billion by the end of the century. Today it stands at $30,000 billion ($30 trillion) after the Biden administration’s horrific spending spree conducted on the pretext of limiting the fallout from Covid.

The reason is pretty simple. Spending other peoples’ money is politically popular. Taxes are not and budget cutting is risky.

We have developed a political culture in which the reelection of incumbents is the highest of all priorities. It is considered perfectly acceptable to just kick the can down the road and let future generations sort out the consequences of our selfishness.

So, for example, when Bush 43 attempted to propose desperately needed reforms for Medicare and Medicare, he was mercilessly demagogued for “pushing granny over the cliff.” His Republican allies deserted him and the effort collapsed. Nobody has tried any such thing since, although debt reduction is mathematically impossible without entitlement reform.

It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going. Interest rates are rising, while serious geopolitical threats are forming. We’re backing ourselves into a position of severe internal and external weakness at just the wrong time.

Yet the political class remains unmoved. Some pay lip service to fiscal discipline, but the spending goes on unabated. Student loans, accommodations for illegal immigrants, and missiles for Ukraine on the condition that no Russians will be harmed by their use are all embraced as if unlimited funds are available.

Fortunately, our forefathers anticipated that the government they created would attempt to exceed its limited constitutional powers. They gave the states a powerful tool to defend themselves — the right to amend the constitution on their own.

Article V of the constitution mandates that Congress “shall” call a constitutional convention when requested to do so by two-thirds of the states and that any amendments proposed, when ratified by 3/4 of the states, become “Part of this of this Constitution”.

The founders would be disappointed to know that the states have never exercised this extraordinary privilege. Thomas Jefferson, knowing how these things go, thought a convention of the states would be needed every generation or so to reign in federal government encroachments.

Instead, the states have stood meekly by as the federal government has far surpassed them in power and prestige to the point where calling a convention of the states is seen as an act of rebellion against authority.

But nothing else has worked to restrain federal spending. Millions of dollars have been spent to elect self-described fiscal conservatives, yet it’s beyond obvious that Congress will never reform itself.

Of course, the convention-of-the-states idea has its enemies. Opposition from the spenders on the left is understandable because they don’t want to end their gravy train. But it is the alliance between the left and conservative stalwarts like the Eagle Forum and John Birch Society which have effectively stalled progress.

Their arguments are fear-inspired. Their principle objection is the perceived threat of a “runaway convention,” the fear that in a constitutional convention, there would be nothing to stop special interest groups from pushing their agendas from banning abortion to banning guns.

Hogwash. Even if the state legislatures fail to limit the authority of Convention delegates, 38 states must ratify any proposed amendments. That historically has been a very strong protection.

Right-wing opposition seems mostly concerned that the convention could inflict lasting damage to the sanctity of our Constitution. The opposite is the truth.

Nothing could honor and strengthen the constitution more than using its own provisions to enable us to address our most urgent modern threat. The other option is the Left’s practice of declaring a “living” constitution that says whatever judges say it does.

It’s time for us to flex our democratic muscles and fulfill our destiny as free, optimistic, and proud Americans. Our republic may be in the balance.

Published in Economics, Law
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  1. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD
    @DonTillman

    One problem is innumeracy; people have no concept of billions and trillions of dollars.

    We need to present all spending as per household.  With about 123.6 million households in the US, the recent $54 billion going to Ukraine, for example, comes to $437 per household.


    You can’t just require a balanced budget.   There are always going to be emergencies that need to be addressed.

    And, of course, you can’t do anything with a Democrat Congress.

    Once Congress flips, it might be possible to do two things:

    • Audit all government agencies, and downsize accordingly.
    • Legislation (maybe a Constitutional amendment) that doesn’t allow a member of Congress to run for re-election unless the budget is balanced.  This would provide an actual *incentive* to balance the budget, which currently doesn’t exist.
    • #1
  2. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    It is probably impossible but the alternative is secession. We went to war to prevent states from seceding, but the states leaving wanted to preserve slavery.  We stoped them to end it.   We had unusually strong leadership to take us to war.  Who knows if that was a mistake or not, but the continued empowerment of the top, the bureaucracy and falling cost companies will end not only the US, but the west and the East won’t be far behind.  I don’t know why it isn’t obvious just because we can’t see how it all comes to an end, but does anyone believe that the narrow ignorant self interested top can actually manage the most complex economy that has ever existed, that the world will replace the kind of leadership we exercised to hold itself together?  We should know how it ends.  It narrows, concentrates, defends itself, consolidates, rots, loses focus and dies.  So far in human history there have been no exceptions. 

    • #2
  3. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    First, it’s not a “Constitutional Convention,” it’s convention to propose amendments. Big difference, in my mind. Call it “an Article V Amendment Convention.”

    Second, various scholars calculated that depending on how one restricts the definition of “application of the legislatures” and if they expire or not, that as few as 38 or as many as all 50 states have sent an application for an Amendment Convention to Congress. Heck, Virginia sent one to the very first Congress. So Congress has already received sufficient applications.

    So that leaves us with one big question: why do we assume Congress will actually call an Amendment Convention? Why would they allow a process that could end up diminishing their powers?

    Oh, I know they’re supposed to. But if they don’t then what? SCOTUS would never touch a suit to force Congress to do so (“It’s a question for the political branches!”). Even if they did take it and rule that Congress must call a Convention, how would that ever be enforced and by whom?

    • #3
  4. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    How would such a convention solve the debt problem?

    It would have to propose some Constitutional amendment dealing with the debt, wouldn’t it?  What would that be?

    If it is something like a balanced-budget requirement, how would that be enforced?  By SCOTUS?  Would SCOTUS be empowered to raise taxes in order to balance the budget?  Or cut spending?  If it’s a spending cut, would it be limited to an across-the-board spending cut, or would SCOTUS get a line-item veto over spending?

    I don’t think that there’s an easy solution to the debt problem.

    • #4
  5. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    How would such a convention solve the debt problem?

    It would have to propose some Constitutional amendment dealing with the debt, wouldn’t it? What would that be?

    If it is something like a balanced-budget requirement, how would that be enforced? By SCOTUS? Would SCOTUS be empowered to raise taxes in order to balance the budget? Or cut spending? If it’s a spending cut, would it be limited to an across-the-board spending cut, or would SCOTUS get a line-item veto over spending?

    I don’t think that there’s an easy solution to the debt problem.

    Solving the debt problem is a political problem, so I also don’t see how an amendment helps. I also think that having SCOTUS involved in raising taxes, etc., would be a non-starter. That’s Constitutionally the responsibility of Congress, and has to originate from the House.

    Though a line-item veto granted to POTUS, subject to the same override as a regular veto, might trim some fat (depending on the definition) at the margins. Not a real solution though.

    • #5
  6. Steve Fast Coolidge
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    I would love to see a Convention of the States to amend the constitution to ban the mis-interpretations that have led to the administrative state, to close the loopholes of which the liberals have taken advantage, and to repeal the 16th and 17th amendments. But I don’t think such a convention would accomplish much because America itself is divided. There’s not a 3/4 majority of states for any position at this time.

    The states were split 30-20 for Trump in 2016 and tied 25-25 in 2020. If you take those results as a proxy for how states would vote in a conservative re-working of the constitution, you wouldn’t have enough because you need 38 states to amend.

    A lot of education needs to be done before enough states will support the positions of a Convention.

    • #6
  7. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    The present Federal leviathan is a monster unimagined by any of the framers of the Constitution, and exists in violation of any common sense reading of the Constitution. Generating a new document will not restore liberty or cure the debt – it will be ignored just as easily as the Constitution is ignored. 

    We don’t need more documents. We need conviction on the part of citizens that the government operate within the limits of the Constitution. There is no substitute.

    • #7
  8. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    The Fed has to keep interest rates above inflation at all times or otherwise people are going to use government to steal from each other. Then the government centralizes and grows too much and then it runs out of money. 

    http://financialrepressionauthority.com/2017/07/26/the-roundtable-insight-george-bragues-on-how-the-financial-markets-are-influenced-by-politics/

     

    Nobody’s going to do this, but I highly recommend the interview on Grant Williams website with Judy Shelton, the most hard money monetary economist anybody is going to accept in government. I need to listen to it again, but people need to get it out of their heads that there is any separation between Congress, the treasury, and the Fed. This is a recipe for disaster and we are living through it.

    • #8
  9. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Remind yourself to vote. lol 

     

     

     

    • #9
  10. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    I Walton (View Comment):

    It is probably impossible but the alternative is secession. We went to war to prevent states from seceding, but the states leaving wanted to preserve slavery. We stoped them to end it. We had unusually strong leadership to take us to war. Who knows if that was a mistake or not, but the continued empowerment of the top, the bureaucracy and falling cost companies will end not only the US, but the west and the East won’t be far behind. I don’t know why it isn’t obvious just because we can’t see how it all comes to an end, but does anyone believe that the narrow ignorant self interested top can actually manage the most complex economy that has ever existed, that the world will replace the kind of leadership we exercised to hold itself together? We should know how it ends. It narrows, concentrates, defends itself, consolidates, rots, loses focus and dies. So far in human history there have been no exceptions.

    This is a very interesting topic that I am not going to get into an argument with anybody about. I’m glad to watch others argue about it. lol

    I’ve heard that because they didn’t put the constitution back together like they should have after the war, that left a bunch of openings for Woodrow Wilson to go crazy. Again I’m just reporting, I can’t defend it. I got that from a financial analyst named Chris Whalen.

    • #10
  11. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Public goods only. Some economists think the government is 80% non-public goods.

    The Fed stops pushing the economy around and simply backs up the financial system in a punitive way.

    Every government actuarial system has to be 100% funded at all times.

    That is what the GOP should have been talking about the second the Soviet Union fell.

    We never should have started trading with China because all it’s going to do is make us spend more on the military because they are just a bunch of mafia that want to take over the planet.

    • #11
  12. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    The present Federal leviathan is a monster unimagined by any of the framers of the Constitution, and exists in violation of any common sense reading of the Constitution. Generating a new document will not restore liberty or cure the debt – it will be ignored just as easily as the Constitution is ignored.

    We don’t need more documents. We need conviction on the part of citizens that the government operate within the limits of the Constitution. There is no substitute.

    I partly agree  —> 

    https://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=1199

    This we then sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning. What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.

    The problem is Woodrow Wilson screwed with the structure of what the Founders set up so much that it really set up a feedback loop that couldn’t be stopped.

    • #12
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