November 2016 Newsletter

  • Wyo. Has History of Supporting Constitutional Amendments
  • Washington Examiner Gets It Slightly Wrong
  • Barron’s Editorial Statements Needed Correction Too
  • NFIB Takes Flack for Supporting a BBA
  • Volcker & Peterson Warn of Debt Growth
  • Heartland Issues ‘Debt Brake’ Policy Paper
  • History Columnist Calls for a Balanced Budget Amendment
  • New Book Analyzes Federalism
  • Natelson Releases New Articles & Research on Article V
  • Non-Article V Effort Asks Congress to Rein-In Regulations


Wyo. Has History of Supporting Constitutional Amendments –
In 2015, the Wyoming House approved HJ 4 by a vote of 44 to 16 which sought to call a BBA-focused Article V convention.  That effort later failed in the Senate.  Advocates for an Article V convention to propose a balanced budget amendment believe the 2017 legislative session will see success in the Wyoming Senate.

According to the Wyoming Liberty Group (WLG), that state has a history of supporting needed Constitutional amendments.  That history extends back to at least 1939 when the state sought to repeal and replace the 16th Amendment and limit the income tax and certain other taxes.  Through the years Wyoming supported numerous efforts (both congressional and via convention) to enact Constitutional amendments.

In 1961, the Wyoming legislature considered the federal deficit to be “unmanageable”, and voted to call an Article V convention to propose a BBA.  It did so again in 1979 and 1997.  Sadly, in 2009 an ill-informed Wyoming legislature voted to rescind all prior Article V calls, basing its decision on the inaccurate assumption that those calls were for an unlimited “constitutional convention” rather than a focused “convention to propose amendments”.

For more information on the WLG report, click HERE. Then scroll down and click on “Article V”.

Washington Examiner Gets It Slightly Wrong –
In an October 19 editorial by Michael Barone (Senior Political Analyst for the Washington Examiner) entitled Even a President Trump would have no role in amending the Constitution, the newspaper correctly stated “The Constitution gives the president no role whatever in amending the Constitution”.

However the piece went on to say, “Amendments can be proposed by Congress or by state legislatures, or by a constitutional convention called pursuant to Article V.  Three ways?  No.  By “a Constitutional convention”?  No.  The state legislative option is through the calling of “a convention for proposing amendments”… as clearly spelled out in Article V.

Read the Washington Examiner piece HERE.

Barron’s Editorial Statements Needed Correction Too –

The October 1 edition of Barron’s magazine carried an “Editorial Opinion” piece entitled “Forward to the Past With a New Constitutional Convention”.  Constitutional scholar Rob Natelson promptly wrote to the publication challenging some of its assertions.

Natelson disabused the editors of the notion that an Article V convention is a “Constitutional Convention”.  He also informed them that state-led conventions and the protocols for them are not without precedent, pointing out 37 conventions of states or of colonies, of which the last was a regional gathering in 1922.  The last national one was in 1861.

As he said in his published letter, “As far as I can determine, none of the 37 conventions of states—including the 1787 constitutional convention—“ran away” in the sense of ignoring limits on their authority.  The charge that the 1787 convention ran away is based on some stubborn misunderstandings of the convention’s source of authority, the sequence of events, and 18th century agency law.

NFIB Takes Flack for Supporting a BBA –
Over the past several years the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and a large majority of its members have openly and enthusiastically supported an Article V convention for proposing a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.

The October 17 edition of The New American (a magazine of the John Birch Society – JBS) used the same old tired rationale as to why a “Constitutional Convention” or “Con-Con” is bad for America.  It continually claims that the 1787 convention that wrote the US Constitution was “a runaway convention”, and that an Article V convention is other that it says… “a convention for proposing amendments”.

The New American article repeatedly suggests that those who wish an Article V convention seek to write a new constitution.  No one affiliated with the Article V movement has any such desires.  Yet, because of the many misinterpretations used to distort the Constitution’s own words and related history, JBS publications continue to vilify anyone (and any organization) promoting the use of Article V.  That now includes NFIB.

Read the New American story HERE to take note of the distortions and logic breakdowns they rely on.

Leading into the 2017 state legislative sessions, the BBA Task Force (BBATF) counts 28 states that have adopted resolutions calling for a BBA-focused Article V convention.  Once six more states adopt such resolutions, such a convention can be held.  BBATF is currently working with legislators in 11 states to reach that goal.

Volcker & Peterson Warn of Debt Growth –
“Our current debt may be manageable at a time of unprecedentedly low interest rates.   But if we let our debt grow, and interest rates normalize, the interest burden alone would choke our budget and squeeze out other essential spending.  There would be no room for the infrastructure programs and the defense rebuilding that today have wide support.”

So say Paul A. Volcker and Peter G. Peterson in an October 21Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.  Volcker is a former chairman of the Federal Reserve.  Peterson is founder and chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and a former secretary of commerce.  They point out that “the deficit has grown sharply this year, and will keep the national debt at about 75 percent of the gross domestic product, a ratio not seen since 1950, after the budget ballooned during World War II.”

“Long-term,” they say, “that continued growth, driven by our tax and spending policies, will create the most significant fiscal challenge facing our country. The widely respected Congressional Budget Office has estimated that by midcentury our debt will rise to 140 percent of G.D.P., far above that in any previous era, even in times of war.”

The writers lament that current national political leaders do not have a plan for correcting these fiscal shortcomings.  It is for these reasons that the BBATF and CoS Article V campaigns include proposals to amend the Constitution to include budget balancing restraints.

Read the entire NY Times piece HERE.

Heartland Issues ‘Debt Brake’ Policy Paper –
The Heartland Institute has issued a Policy Brief entitled “Stopping the National Debt Spiral: A Better Rule for Solving the Federal Fiscal Crisis” that was prepared by John Merrifield, Ph.D. and Barry Poulson, Ph.D.

The 28-page treatise is not light reading, but it boils down principles covered in Can the Debt Growth be Stopped? Rules-Based Policy Options for Addressing the Federal Fiscal Crisis, a detailed book written by Merrifield and Poulson.

Over the past many months Dr. Poulson and Dr. Merrifield have studied the benefits to America’s economy from constitutionally slowing the growth in federal spending by just roughly 1% over the 20 years ending 2013.  Using actual experience in other countries which have adopted ‘Debt Brake’ systems, they developed a ‘dynamic simulation’ to demonstrate that a “Spending Growth Limit” would have added an estimated 11 million jobs and increased GDP by $700 billion, or 6%, in 2013 over actual US experience.

Their hope is that once an Article V state-led convention is convened with the task of proposing a BBA for the US Constitution their research will provide guidance in the principles to include.

For a copy of the Brief… click HERE to send an email.  Ask for “Stopping the National Debt Spiral: A Better Rule for Solving the Federal Fiscal Crisis”.

History Columnist Calls for a Balanced Budget Amendment –
The October 27 edition of the Terre Haute (IN) Tribune Star carried a column by well-respected syndicated newspaper columnist- historian- speaker- author Bruce Kauffmann entitled “Bruce’s History Lessons: The Long Overdue 28th Amendment”.

Kauffmann, who worked at CBS News as Anchorman Dan Rather’s top radio writer and speechwriter before launching his syndicated newspaper column, produces short columns that are carried weekly in newspapers across the country.

In the October 27 piece Kauffman notes that his “beat is history, not politics, but sometimes the two intersect in ways that prompt me to combine them, especially when the political issue is so important.  Today, America’s federal debt is approaching $20 trillion dollars, which is unsustainable.  If nothing is done, that debt will beggar our children, grandchildren and generations to come.”

After citing the reasons the debt has accrued, Kauffman points out that “Sadly, the blame also falls on the Constitution, which has no language forcing Congress to balance its annual budget.  That means only by passing a constitutional amendment can we require Congress to balance the federal budget every year.”

He says, “The problem today is that two-thirds of the members of Congress will never agree to a constitutional amendment that requires them to balance the budget.  That would curtail the greatest power they have, to spend money, and it would force the voters, long accustomed to receiving government benefits far in excess of what they pay in taxes, to pony up more tax money or receive fewer benefits, which would be political suicide.

“So the states must take the lead, and today 28 states — just six shy of the necessary two-thirds — have passed resolutions calling for a convention of the states to propose a balanced-budget amendment.”

Read Kauffmann’s entire piece HERE.

New Book Analyzes Federalism –
The framers didn’t just write a document called the Constitution; they engineered a distributed system of government called federalism.  The engineering process they used is surprisingly similar to the process used by software engineers today.  They described a structure of government with associated behaviors.  As such, we can use modern engineering practices to analyze the Constitution for strengths and weaknesses.”

Political Vertigo, a newly released book subtitled “Stabilizing Politics in an Upside-Down World”, by Dennis Haugh, draws on his engineering background to analyze the principles of federalism that the founders sought to lay out.

One reviewer described the book as “a game-changer… a learning tool to clearly see the science behind our country’s foundation and why it is set up the way it is.”  Another early reader observed, “Every politician in our country needs to read this book and reflect on its content.

Haugh looks at how the interplay between federal and state governments has become imbalanced, and why it has happened.  The book can be purchased at Amazon HERE for $14.99 (or Kindle version for $3.99).

Natelson Releases New Articles & Research on Article V –
Written shortly after conclusion of the Convention of States (CoS) Sept. 21-23 simulated convention at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, Natelson wrote: Simulation Shows What An Amendments Convention Would Be Like.”  It is his take on the event.  Read it HERE.

“When We Amend the Constitution, Make Sure We Follow the U.S. Procedure, not the ‘Confederate States’ Procedure” is a recent article produced by Natelson wherein he warns against claims that states may, through state law, dictate the wording of amendments to an interstate convention for proposing amendments.  He suggests that such claims are unwittingly advocating a system similar to the one adopted by the defunct “Confederate States of America.”  Read the full article HERE.

Could Congress Control an Amendments Convention?  Not According to the Founders!”  One common claim by Article V naysayers is that an amendments convention would be fruitless or dangerous because it could be controlled by Congress.  They say Congress could decide how the convention’s commissioners are selected, how the commissioners are allocated, and the nature of the agenda.  Read HERE why those ideas are based on erroneous legal arguments.

“May state legislative applications limit an Article V convention? Subject, yes; specific language, probably not.  This paper deals with the question of whether state applications for a convention for proposing amendments may limit the convention to voting “yes” or “no” on a specifically-worded amendment… and whether state applications may limit the convention to one or more subjects.   Read the paper HERE.

Changed Conditions May Justify Term Limits.”  This is the full version of an op-ed first appearing in the Detroit Daily News in mid-October.  Natelson writes about efforts to amend the Constitution to add congressional and/or judicial term limits, and why.  Read the article HERE.

What should you remember when drafting a constitutional amendment?”  Natelson’s top seven tips for those who would draft a proposed Constitutional amendment (particularly for commissioners to a future Article V convention).  Read them HERE.

Who Called the Constitutional Convention?  Answer: The Commonwealth of Virginia.”  Natelson’s argument for designating Virginia as the original state to issue the initiating call for the 1787 Constitutional Convention.  He points out that seven states had responded to that call before the Confederation Congress adopted its “opinion” that the states should meet.  Read the paper HERE.

A related article just released by Natelson, “This Resolution Suggests Congress Did Agree to a Broad Constitutional Convention” adds weight to his positions in the above paper.  Read it  HERE.

What Connecticut’s Authorizing Documents Tell Us About the Constitutional Convention—and About Modern Misinterpretations.”  Natelson’s research reviews the history of events leading up to Connecticut becoming the 11th state to agree to participate in the 1787 Constitutional Convention.  Useful history for those who thought the Confederation Congress called that convention.  Read the article HERE.

Non-Article V Effort Wants Congress to Rein-In Regulations –
For some years Ramon Buhler of the Madison Coalition has been pushing what he calls The Regulation Freedom Amendment.  It is a proposed Constitutional amendment he hopes Congress will adopt and propose to the states for ratification.

Buhler hopes to persuade Congress to propose the following amendment: “Whenever one quarter of the Members of the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate transmit to the President their written declaration of opposition to a proposed federal regulation, it shall require a majority vote of the House and Senate to adopt that regulation.”

The effort’s web site admits, “The likelihood of getting 2/3 of Congress to propose a Regulation Freedom Amendment under current conditions is small at best.”  While Buhler has not launched an Article V campaign specifically for his proposal, he was encouraged in his efforts by the recent Convention of States Project (CoS) simulated Article V convention.  At that event a proposed amendment was adopted that he considers to be a version of his Regulation Freedom Amendment.

The 4th proposed amendment adopted by Commissioners at the CoS simulated convention said (in part): “The Legislatures of the States shall have authority to abrogate any provision of federal law issued by the Congress, President, or Administrative Agencies of the United States, whether in the form of a statute, decree, order, regulation, rule, opinion, decision, or other form.”

See the entire adopted CoS simulation proposal HERE.

Who Said it?

The Founders “left the Constitutional door open… the multi-tool
they left us is Article V… to repair and amend and maintain
the (American governmental) system. 
Commissioners, the winds of change are about to blow…
and that’s you and the people you represent. 
We are the sure guardians of the people’s liberty.”
Said by Utah State Representative Ken Ivory
just after he was selected to preside over the
September 22-23 Simulated Article V convention of the states.
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