April 2018 Newsletter

This month…
This month’s edition of the Caucus newsletter focuses on national debt, deficits and the unused powers in Article V.  Three of the 7 currently-active Article V movements are aimed at installing federal fiscal restraints… or fiscal rules… into the US Constitution via a state-driven amendment.   Meanwhile, influential groups continue in their foolhardy belief that Congress will impose such restraints on itself.

  • National Debt is Now Over $21 Trillion
  • Federal Interest Costs Said to be on track to Quadruple
  • April 4: Important ‘Swiss Debt Brake’ Panel Discussion
  • Congressman calls Associates ‘Debt Junkies’
  • Feds Get ‘Poor’ Rating at New Debt Default Clock Site
  • NY Professor Calls for a Balanced Budget Amendment
  • Fed Committee to Recommend Federal Budgeting Reforms
  • Current Progress is Slim for Article V Movements
  • Article V Champion Hal Wick Succumbs to Cancer
  • Indiana Senate President Long Voluntarily Steps Down
  • Resources for Understanding Article V

National Debt is Now Over $21 Trillion –
A report in the March 16 edition of the Washington Examiner carried the headline: “National debt hits $21 trillion”.The article written by Pete Kasperowicz, reported that “The national debt exceeded $21 trillion for the first time on Thursday (3/15), a little more than six months after it hit first $20 trillion on Sept. 8.”

It has taken a little less than 200 days for the US national debt to grow by a trillion dollars.  Congress suspended the official federal “debt ceiling” in February.  Now the government will not face any borrowing limit until at least March 1, 2019.  The writer suggests that “At its current pace, the government is on track to add at least $1 trillion to the national debt by then.”

Michael Peterson, President of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation is reported to have said, “this unfortunate milestone has only just begun to include the effects of the recent fiscally irresponsible tax and spending legislation, which added more debt on top of an already unsustainable trajectory.”

Read the entire report HERE.

Federal Interest Costs Said to be on track to Quadruple –
About the time of the Examiner report (above), Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) issued a statement describing how federal interest payments are “on a path to quadruple over the next decade, reaching over $1 trillion per year.”

She notes that Interest on the debt is the fastest growing part of the federal budget.  Her organization’s estimate “finds interest costs will almost quadruple between 2017 and 2028 in dollar terms, and reach their highest share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in history.”

Lest readers think the CRFB is just some crackpot group, its board consists of university presidents, a former US Secretary of Defense, former and current members of Congress, a former Director of the US Small Business Administration, a former Comptroller General of the US General Accounting Office, a former Director of the US Congressional Budget Office, former state governors, and several high-level business and education leaders… on both the left and the right.

Sadly, while this influential group clearly sees the problem facing the federal government, it has yet to recognize that the path to the answer awaits them in the second option within Article V of the Constitution.

Learn more about CRFB HERE… and read Ms. MacGuineas’ full statement HERE.

April 4: Important ‘Swiss Debt Brake’ Panel Discussion –
On Wednesday, April 4 an important live-streamed panel discussion entitled “Hitting the Brakes on Overspending and Debt”, will be held at the Heritage Foundation headquarters in Washington, DC from noon to 1 PM (Eastern Time).  The panel will discuss possible “fiscal rules” that could be put into a Constitutional amendment to rein-in federal deficit spending.

The announcement for the event noted, “Trillion dollar deficits are around the corner, driving America’s high and growing public debt to eclipse the entire US gross domestic product (GDP) over the next ten years.  There is broad agreement in Washington and across the country that the US budget process is broken and ill-equipped to address America’s current and growing fiscal challenges.”

The panel will discuss the so-called “Swiss Debt Brake” and its potential application to US fiscal control.  Three expert economists will participate, and the general public can observe by clicking on the RSVP button HERE.

The panelists include: Jan-Egbert Sturm, Chairman of the Swiss Debt Brake Group of Experts and Professor of Applied Macroeconomics at the Department of Management, Technology and Economics at the ETH, Zurich, Switzerland; Dr. Barry W. Poulson, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Colorado and co-author of “Can the Debt Growth Be Stopped?”; and Ryan Bourne, Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.

Once again, while it is heartening to see the Heritage Foundation hosting an event like this one, Heritage has yet to recognize that the path to implementing any fiscal rules like the Swiss Debt Brake will only happen through the use of the second option within Article V of the Constitution.  Congress has repeatedly demonstrated that it is incapable of healing itself.

Congressman calls Associates ‘Debt Junkies’ –
During a recent town hall meeting in Alabama, Congressman Morris Jackson “Mo” Brooks described many of his fellow members of Congress as “wholly and completely financially irresponsible… debt junkies.”

Brooks told constituents he supported the idea of an Article V convention, which would allow states to bypass Congress in order to amend the Constitution to include a balanced budget provision.  He was reported to have said, “If you know people who are in different states around the country, try to get them to talk to their legislators to get that resolution passed so that the states can bypass Congress.”  Read the local newspaper report of Rep. Brooks’ comments HERE.

Feds Get ‘Poor’ Rating at New Debt Default Clock Site –
The Compact for America Educational Foundation, affiliated with the Compact for America (CfA) Article V movement, has announced a new Debt Default Clock to track the federal government’s Credit Score and the closeness of a catastrophic federal default.

A group known as The Seniors Center has given a nearly-$100,000 grant to the CfA Educational Foundation to establish a Review Committee of experts to monitor federal debt, and to set up a web site for the Debt Default Clock.  The committee includes: Dean Clancy, Jim Claire, Kevin McKechnie, Stephen Moore, and Baker Spring.

According to the CfA-related Review Committee, as of today the Federal Government Default Clock stands at just five minutes from midnight, and the federal credit rating (patterned after the commonly-used FICO scoring system) stands at 531 (Poor).  See the new Debt Default Clock and related information HERE.

NY Professor Calls for a Balanced Budget Amendment –
In an op-ed piece published during March, Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy, an Associate Professor at State University of New York, gave strong support for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, describing it as “a great leap forward in terms of U.S. tax policy”.

But he went on to say, “(W)e should become more cognizant of the need to balance the federal budget.  By some estimates, in the current fiscal year the deficit may exceed $1 trillion.  That is unacceptable.  Tax cuts are desirable, yes, but so is fiscal responsibility. This is why Congress’s recent bipartisan decision to raise spending on defense and domestic programs was mistaken.  If more spending is absolutely required, then it should be paid for with cuts in other areas.

“Ultimately, moreover, if Congress can’t restrain its impulse to spend money that the country doesn’t have, then we should move towards the passage of a balanced budget amendment, which will require rather recommend fiscal prudence.”  Read his entire piece HERE.

Select Committee to Recommend Federal Budgeting Reforms –
The Savannah Morning News recently carried an editorial about Georgia’s US Senator David Perdue.  Noting that he is “an accomplished businessman”, and that he has just been appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, the newspaper called on him to fulfill his campaign promise to lead the federal government “to reduce the national debt and advocate for a balanced budget amendment.”

Perdue is one of 16 Congressional members named to the budget process reform committee.  He is one of four Senate Republicans in the group, joining four Senate Democrats, four House Republicans and four House Democrats.

The editorial noted that the committee will meet over the next several months to draft changes to the budget and appropriations process and present them to Congress for a vote before the end of the year, and expressed hope for a positive outcome.  Read the editorial HERE.

Current Progress is Slim for Article V Movements –
Since the Alabama legislature adopted HJR23 (the US Term Limits application for an Article V convention to propose a Constitutional provision that limits the terms of members of Congress) on January 25, none of the many Article V proposals have yet made it all the way through to adoption.

More US Term Limits Updates: In Arizona, HCR2024 is still alive.  It has passed committees in both houses.  Georgia’s SR195 is still alive, previously passed by the Senate.  In Tennessee the House has approved SJR92, but it is currently still languishing in a Senate committee.

While the US Term Limits proposal has been considered in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, South Carolina (HCR3567), and Vermont (HJR11)… the effort has seen no significant progress in these states.  Related bills in Maine (HP1232) and New Hampshire (HCR12) appear to be dead.

During current state legislative sessions the BBA Task Force has received consideration in Kentucky, Maine, and South Carolina, but no significant progress on the single-issue BBA-focused measure has yet been seen during this state legislative season.  Likewise, the triple-subject Convention of States Project’s proposal has been considered this year in numerous states.  None have approved it during current sessions, but their proposal is still alive in Mississippi (HCR56… with the term limits provision stripped out… passed in the House 76 to 42 on 3/22), Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina (where the 2018 session has not yet officially begun).  US Senator Rand Paul has announced that he endorses the CoSP effort.

The Compact for America group reports that it is focusing on “Congressional aspects” of their Article V initiative, and expects legislative bodies in a few states to submit their proposal to interim studies over the coming summer.  They have also announced a new educational effort being coordinated by a new Debt Default Clock Review Committee (see above).  Five states have aligned themselves with the CfA effort.  No new states have joined this year.

The Campaign Finance Reform movement (seeking the overturn of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision) led by Wolf-PAC currently has Article V applications approved in 5 states.  None are new this legislative year.  The Wolf-PAC effort in Maine recently failed.  Last year the Maryland legislature bought into the argument that an Article V convention to propose amendments is “dangerous”… so it rescinded all of its prior Article V applications.  Yet, this year the Maryland legislature is considering the Wolf-PAC-proposed Article V application.

A new related organization, American Promise, has been formed by Jeff Clements, the former Assistant Attorney General of Massachusetts.  It considers itself as a partner with Wolf-PAC, but is not focused on using Article V to attain its objectives.

Article V Champion Hal Wick Succumbs to Cancer –
Former South Dakota State Rep. Hal Wick passed away on March 8 after fighting cancer for some time.  His passing is notable because for more than 30 years he was a staunch crusader for a BBA-focused Article V convention of states.

Hal spent 30 years trying to get the BBA resolution through the South Dakota legislature, and finally succeeded a couple years ago.  David Biddulph, co-founder of the BBA Task Force said, “It’s because of patriots like Hal, all across the country, that we’ve got 28 states right now.  He was one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.”

Read a more detailed tribute to him HERE.

Indiana Senate President David Long Voluntarily Steps Down –
The HeraldBulletin.com (Indianapolis, Indiana) carries a special column focused on Indiana politics.  Called “Howey Politics Indiana”, it is published by Brian Howey.  On March 15 Mr. Howey dedicated his column to outgoing Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long.

As a journalist, Howey has covered Long’s political career for many years.  In this article he reported that Long was voluntarily stepping down from his 12-year leadership post in Indiana.  Long is the only the second Senate President since 1980, and one of few who have exited on their own terms.  Howey gave Senator Long abundant praise.

Long announced that he will leave the Senate on election day in November after 22 years as a member of that body.  He is not being term-limited out.  This newsletter is covering Long’s departure because he has been a long-time advocate for a BBA-focused Article V convention.

Under Long’s leadership Indiana has experienced a series of truly balanced state budgets, one of the best business climates in the nation, and two mega public infrastructure projects in which he played key roles.

Howey reports that “Long and other Hoosier leaders believe that Congress has abrogated its duties to deal with controversial issues such as immigration reform. He believed so much in the concept of balanced federal budgets that he helped form a conservative push for an Article V constitutional convention that would require 34 state legislatures to trigger.”

Long even wrote a 15-page overview of Article V for fellow state legislators, available HERE.  He also wrote (and got passed in 2013) one of the nation’s first “Delegate Limitation” bills.  See it HERE.

Resources for Understanding Article V –
State legislators and citizen activists who are on the fence about the wisdom of using the “second option” provisions written into Article V of the US Constitution will want to take advantage of the scores of resources provided by the Article V Caucus HERE.

In addition to providing background, contact information, and status of each of the current Article V movements, the site provides links to:

  • 17 papers by a variety of scholars dealing with the history behind Article V
  • 5 scholarly papers dealing with the “runaway convention’ myth
  • 4 scholarly papers dealing with the question of limiting an Article V convention
  • 6 scholarly papers dealing with the question of Congressional involvement in an Article V convention and the history of the ‘convention of states’ phrase
  • 17 resources on federal debt and fiscal issues by a variety of experts
  • 6 specific resources on Federalism
  • 18 highly recommended books on Article V
  • More than two dozen other articles and papers dealing with Article V

Each topical entry includes a brief overview of the referenced resource, with a link to the original.  Access to this resource library is free and open to all.

Thoughts to consider…
The convention procedure is both a path toward popular reform and a crucial constitutional right.  Americans should reclaim it as our own.

Robert G. Natelson, recognized Article V scholar and expert
As Scarlett O’Hara said in the concluding monologue of Gone With the Wind: “I’ll think about it tomorrow.  But I must think about it.”

Some state legislators must be thinking: “Maybe using the tools in Article V could do good for America… but I’m too busy with other things to give it any more thought today.”
“Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.”

Voltaire

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