April 2020 Newsletter
- A Sad 25th Anniversary
- Legislators & Educators Need to Lead in Educating Public
- CPAC Attendees Report Strong Support for a BBA
- Voters of All Persuasions Want Action on National Debt
- Forbes: Get Future Deficits Under Control
- About the 2.2 Trillion Dollar Deficit-Increasing CARES Act
- Does COVID-19 Have You and Your Kids Stuck at Home?
- Progress of Applications for an Article V Convention
- Foundation calls for 5 Constitutional Amendments
- Article V and the Google Search System
- Recommended Article V-Related Reads
On March 18, Ralph Voss, a columnist for the Gasconade County Republican pointed out that March marked the 25th anniversary of the historic vote in the US Senate (HJ Res.1 – March 2, 1995) wherein a proposed constitutional amendment was defeated by a single vote. The proposal had already been approved in the House by a wide margin.Had that proposal passed, and had it been ratified by ¾ of the states, it would have amended the US Constitution and required the federal government to operate under a balanced budget unless deficit spending was sanctioned by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. At the time the national debt was less than $5 trillion. Today (before figuring in all the spending to combat the health and economic effects of the Coronavirus outbreak) the national debt exceeds $23.5 trillion (USDebtClock.org). That’s a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 104%. By way of reference, as of 2018 the debt-to-GDP ratio of Italy was 132%, only slightly better than Greece.Voss wrote, “While I’m concerned about the virus, I’m even more concerned about our economy. If the damage done by the coming economic crisis is as bad as I’m afraid it might be, more suffering may be caused by economic problems than the health problems brought on by the virus. Only time will tell.
“The virus will undoubtedly bring on a recession. How bad? Who knows? What has me scared is our national debt. When past recessions developed, we had some flexibility. When the last recession started, our national debt was almost $15 trillion dollars less than now. That’s a lot of cabbage.”
Legislators & Educators Need to Lead in Educating Public –
Want to Reduce Government Spending? Educate the Public about the Federal Debt says the headline in a March 3 CATO Institute publication. The author, Ryan Bourne, contends that if the public really understood the extent of national debt and what it could portend for individual US citizens, they would be substantially more supportive of measures to implement federal fiscal responsibility.
Bourne reports on a recent level-of-understanding study conducted on a representative population of US citizens. It bears out a study reported in last month’s edition of this newsletter, that US citizens have a very low understanding of American government, its debt and how the Constitution might be amended to correct governance shortcomings. Read the CATO piece HERE.
CPAC Attendees Report Strong Support for a BBA –
The March 1 edition of The Washington Times reported on a straw poll conducted of attendees at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). They report that respondents to the Times/CPAC poll effectively said “it’s time to get back to fiscal discipline.”
When asked what one amendment they would want added to the Constitution, The Times reports that more activists chose a balanced budget amendment than any other option. Participants in the poll numbered 1,336. Read the Times story HERE.
Voters of All Persuasions Want Action on National Debt –
A recent report by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation notes that “Heading into the 2020 elections, the vast majority of Americans are urging leaders in Washington to address the unsustainable national debt and budget deficit. Public concerns and calls for action on fiscal solutions have been measured in at least 11 different polls this year.”
The report summarizes the 11 surveys. It concludes by saying, “With the national debt eclipsing $23 trillion, annual deficits above $1 trillion (and rising), and interest costs coming in at $1 billion every day, it’s no surprise that Americans feel strongly about the need to come together around solutions to put us on a more stable path. Doing so will help build a strong economic future for our nation, with widely shared economic opportunity and prosperity.” Read the report HERE.
Forbes: Get Future Deficits Under Control –
The March 27 edition of Forbes carried an article headlined America Is On Track For A $4 Trillion Deficit In 2020. Should It Matter? by Ben Ritz.
Talking about the federal actions taken on that day he says, “Altogether, these policies add up to a 2020 budget deficit totaling between $4 trillion and $5 trillion, which would equate to roughly 20 percent of gross domestic product (the total value of goods and services produced by the economy this year).” … “Not since 1945 has the federal government run a budget deficit comparable to what we expect in 2020.”
He says, “ [L]ike it did in WW2, America now faces a national threat for which borrowing money to defeat it is a long-term public investment and the only fiscally responsible course of action.”
But Ritz concludes with “Although our immediate priority must be combating the current crisis, getting future deficits under control is the only reliable way to prevent rising interest costs from eventually crowding out critical public investments and preserve our capacity to manage future economic crises in the years to come.” Read the Forbes piece HERE.
About the 2.2 Trillion Dollar Deficit-Increasing CARES Act –
Has the stimulus package completely blown up all thoughts of controlling the deficit and national debt? Will this be the end of any attempts to balance the Federal budget, or does this underscore the reason why state legislators and activists must redouble efforts to control deficit spending?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a devastating blow to the economy. There are sound economic reasons for Congress passing this gargantuan stimulus package, but it does not mean the Federal government should continue this policy for long. After this crisis America must stop the deficits ASAP to prevent the complete meltdown of the nation’s economic systems.
This is essentially a wartime footing, which cannot be sustained. It must be reversed if America is ever to see solid prosperity in our future.
The 2.2 trillion dollar stimulus must be understood as a wakeup call to fiscal prudence or it will be the first giant leap down a big black hole form which the nation will never return.
Congress will never control its spending habit, but through Article V the states can lead the way. That is what needs to happen and that is why the State Legislators’ Article V Caucus exists.
Does COVID-19 Have You and Your Kids Stuck at Home? –
Rita Dunaway, National Legislative Strategist for the Convention of States Project (CoSP) is suggesting that folks take advantage of their “shelter in place” situations related to the Coronavirus pandemic. CoSP is drawing attention to a late February article published in The Stream that she wrote.
The article encourages use of unexpected home time to become better acquainted with basic American civics. Ms. Dunaway offers several specific sources for enhanced understanding of American government, sources that can be accessed directly from home computers. Read the article HERE.
This past week the State Legislators’ Article V Caucus issued a Special Bulletin that is MUST reading for state legislators whether or not they are impacted by “stay at home” orders. It deals with issues of federalism relative to governmental intervention in the Coronavirus pandemic. Read it HERE.
On a related note… The Heritage Foundation has issued an article entitled We’re All Homeschoolers Now. It points out that as of March 17 some 64,000 US schools were closed, impacting more than 32.5 million students.
The article lists a rapidly growing market of online resources to meet the content needs of millions of students across the country. Read it HERE.
Finally, some Americans are displaying flags and red, white and blue ribbons, communicating to those protecting us on the front lines, “We acknowledge you, appreciate you, and are praying for you and for our country.” Many of these ribbons are being tied to trees where those on their way to essential jobs can see them and be encouraged.
Progress of Applications for an Article V Convention –
There have been no new Article V applications for a convention of states – on any subject – since March 2019.
The Convention of States Project (CoSP) continues to be active with its triple-subject proposal in about a dozen state legislatures. The application proposals have seen little or no progress in the last month, with these exceptions:
Hawaii – On March 6 the CoSP proposal was introduced as HR112 with 12 sponsors.
Oklahoma – SJR41, with 2 sponsors, appears to be an update of SJR4 adopted in 2016. Both applications are unique in that they simultaneously apply for a CoSP convention AND a BBA convention. SJR41 was approved in the Senate on March 4 by a vote of 36 to 11. It has been referred to the House Rules Committee. The 2016 application sunsets in 2023. SJR41 would remove the sunset provision and rename the bill in honor of former Oklahoma US Senator Tom Coburn. The COVID-19-caused legislative temporary shutdown may prevent SJR41 from being acted on this year.
NOTE: Senator Coburn, known for his work to ban funding for legislative “earmarks” and his work with the Convention of States Project, passed away on March 27 (after fighting prostate cancer for years) at age 72. Read an editorial about Coburn in the March 28 edition of the Tulsa World… HERE.
South Carolina – HJR3125 was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on March 11 on a vote of 14 to 9. The resolution next heads to the House floor where it has 48 sponsors.
Activities of the single-subject Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force (BBA) effort were not listed in last month’s newsletter. While this group’s activities have been severely scaled back the last couple years, there continues to be some progress.
In Mississippi, HCR14, a BBA proposal, was introduced on January 30 with 1 sponsor. It is currently in the Rules Committee. In 1979 the Mississippi legislature adopted HCR51, a resolution calling for an Article V convention of states to propose a BBA. Unfortunately that bill included language that some constitutional scholars believe precludes it from aggregating with other similar applications. Totally separate from HCR14, efforts are underway to get the Mississippi legislature to adopt a bill to modify the 1979 application.
In South Carolina, HCR52, a BBA proposal, was introduced on February 19 with 7 sponsors. It is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.
In South Dakota, SJR503 sought to rescind that state’s 2015 BBA-focused Article V application. The bill failed to pass in the Senate on a February 25 vote.
The US Term Limits (USTL) effort to impose term limits on Congress has had two developments since last month’s report in this newsletter:
Arizona – HCR2016 was approved by 2 different House committees in February. On March 4 by voice vote the House Committee of the Whole voted to “Retain on the Calendar”. No action since.
Wisconsin – SJR 106, with 5 sponsors, was introduced on February 28. It is pending in a Senate committee.
The various “Get Money out of Politics” efforts continue to be active. On March 6 Maryland Matters carried a story under the heading Activists, Lawmakers Want Big Money Out of Politics — But Divide on How. Most of these efforts are aimed at overturning or circumventing the 2010 “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision.
The article noted, “For the seventh consecutive year, lawmakers and grass-roots organizations are trying to pass a resolution [SJR2] that would enable Maryland to call on Congress to hold a convention to address the scourge of money in politics. And for the seventh consecutive year, the resolution met opposition from groups that also oppose big money in politics — but are scared of a convention going too far.” Read that article HERE.
Meanwhile Business for American Promise, under the leadership of Elizabeth Doty,
seeks “to empower, inspire and organize Americans to win the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.” That amendment is said to “re-balance our politics and government by putting the rights of individual citizens before the privileges of concentrated money, corporations, unions, political parties, and superPACs.”
Although American Promise supports efforts to get an Article V convention to propose its amendment, it is currently relying on Congress to formally propose the measure (HJRes 2 – which has over 200 sponsors).
Foundation calls for 5 Constitutional Amendments –
On March 5 the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE, a libertarian think tank) issued a paper by Rory Margraf entitled 5 Constitutional Amendments Americans Should Consider ASAP.
The writer calls for amendments (1) repealing the 16th Amendment (authorizing the federal income tax); (2) repealing the 17th Amendment (changing the way US Senators are chosen); (3) removing the word “unreasonable” from the 4th Amendment (relating to search and seizures); (4) seeking to clarify the separation of Legislative and Executive powers; and, (5) establishing criteria to be met for the Congressional War Powers Act (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11) to be implemented. Read his proposals HERE.
The writer makes no attempt to suggest how such constitutional amendments could come about. He acknowledges that “[a]mending the Constitution is no small task and we should not expect it to be,” and says of his proposals, “To put it another way, it is an attempt at the impossible.”
Mr. Margraf concludes by saying, “The difficulties of altering the Constitution, however, should not dissuade us from having the conversations necessary to do so.” Margraf’s paper is highlighted here only to demonstrate that there are many ideas out there for constitutional amendments, but few patriots who are willing to put the practical effort (hard work) into solving America’s problems by really employing the tools provided in Article V of the Constitution. Hats off to those patriots willing to share in this task!
Article V and the Google Search System –
Thousands of people use Google Search every day to locate desired information. No doubt scores of people regularly use the same system when seeking to learn more about Article V and convention of states questions.
The editor of this newsletter employs a daily Google Search on “Article V”, “Convention of States” and “Balanced Budget”. For some inexplicable reason those searches are now displaying numerous Russian-originated files. To the observant, if the source address ends with “.ru” it indicates “the Internet country code top-level domain for Russia,” as Wikipedia explains.
Admittedly, some files brought forth in these searches deal with international matters (for instance “Article V” also brings up stories about Article V of the NATO agreement). But why would Russia be concocting and distributing files on “Convention of States”? Is it part of a disinformation campaign?
During the period March 1 through March 20 Google Search produced 61 “.ru” results under “Convention of States” and 7 “.ru” non-NATO results under “Article V” searches. To the person seeing information about Article V and a convention of states, consider some of these alluring “.ru” headings:
- Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787
- The Constitutional Convention A Narrative History
- Convention to propose amendments to the United States
- The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787
- Article V and the amendment process
- Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787
- Constitutional Convention A Narrative History from the Notes of James Madison
- The Article V Convention for Proposing Constitutional Amendments Historical Perspectives
- Article V Amendatory Constitutional Convention Keeping the Republic in the Twenty-First Century
When such files are clicked from computers equipped with the McAfee antivirus system the following warning comes up: “Whoa! Are you sure you want to go there?… may be risky to visit.” As a result, this editor has not opened any of the “.ru” files. But what about less savvy computer users?
The obvious question is: Why would Google include such Russian-originated files in their Search results? Surely they have the technology to eliminate them.
Recommended Article V-Related Reads –
The Road to Americanism – The Constitutional History of the United States is a new book by Dennis Haugh. It is more than “a good read” for people interested in learning more about the history of America, its principle governing document and the drama surrounding its ratification. It also includes numerous interesting and well-documented tidbits not generally found elsewhere.
Haugh presents an easy-to-read study of America’s colonial era (a history of trial and error), and he explores early divides between large colonies/states and small colonies/states during the early years of America. The text is supplemented with numerous charts, graphs and maps.
The author points out that the founding generation developed their constitutional intelligence in a relatively short time. They learned from the creation of state constitutions between 1776 and 1783 (in the midst of the Revolutionary War). He also points out the contributions of Native American diplomats from the Iroquois Confederacy in the Treaty of Lancaster and the influence of Aristotle’s “Best” principles for governance toward construction of the 1787 US Constitution.
The book provides an overview of constitutional amendment issues, histories of amendment conventions and it details the earliest American constitutional amendments. A thorough review of the Constitution’s Fifth Article is included, along with a study of processes related to amending state constitutions.
The 250-page book (plus appendices) is available for $14.99 in paperback HERE.
Election 2020 challenge: Getting candidates to confront America’s debt problem is a recent article in the Deseret News (Utah). It challenges voters to confront political candidates on America’s growing national debt.
Writer Jay Evensen says, “[I]f they were smart, Americans would be alarmed by some of the writing on their own fiscal wall and, as the election year of 2020 dawns, begin demanding real answers to questions about debt and overspending in this country.” Read his brief piece HERE.
The John Birch Society v. We the People is another excellent paper by Rodney Dodsworth, posted on March 2. His new piece addresses the John Birch Society’s fixation on Article VI of the Constitution while opposing use of the provisions in Article V.
Dodsworth discusses the “oath or Affirmation, to support [the] Constitution,” and says he joins the JBS in sympathy “in wishing all judges, politicians and bureaucrats followed the letter of the written Constitution,” but says “there are at least two reasons why this is as fanciful as the Left’s dream of perfect social justice.”
He says, “we the sovereign people must do our duty, protect ourselves and our posterity by calling an Article V [convention of states] to restore the Framers’ PROVEN form of government.” Read his brief paper HERE.
The American Experiment, Revisited by Frank W. Keeney, founder of the reform movement known as Act 2, alleges that “Democracies around the world are in trouble,” including America. He says “We no longer exhibit the old Yankee ingenuity for problem-solving that characterized our early days; rather, we often see rancorous, uncivil discourse and rigid, uncompromising political posturing. How did this happen? Let’s look at the historical record for insights on our situation.”
Keeney’s brief paper reviews the steps that have led America to greatness, identifies problems that currently plague the nation’s governance and offers an outline of “repairs” that can be made. Read his paper HERE.
Some Thoughts to Consider –
When our Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence,
they reinterpreted the rights of man.
When they wrote the US Constitution, they reinvented government.”
But we are an exceptional nation for only one –
that we have within our hands the power of regeneration.
We can reinvent ourselves as a nation,
just as we can reinvent ourselves as individuals.
It doesn’t happen as automatically or as a matter of right.
Once we realize that our leaders are out of step with the people,
we can’t just stumble along and keep doing what we’ve always done
because it’s familiar and comfortable.
We have to earn it, to go through our catharsis, to adapt and change.”
on pages 336 and 346 of her excellent new book,