November 2018 Newsletter

This month…

  • Judge Brennan:  Long-time Article V Advocate Passes Away
  • Air Force Vet Stresses Extent of US National Debt
  • Columnist:  ‘It’s Only Money… the Kids will pay it back’
  • BBA Only Merits ‘Yawn’ from a US Senator
  • Indiana Voters to Consider a State BBA
  • Economist Warns of Upcoming Federal Budgeting Proposals
  • State Senator Sets Record Straight on an Article V
  • The Limitations of Article V
  • Election Reform Groups Seek Use of Article V in NE US

A Note about the Emphasis of This Newsletter –
This newsletter dedicates a lot of its space to information about the US national debt and patterns of federal spending that are way beyond federal income.  This is because five of the current Article V efforts are exclusively or primarily focused on using the powers of Article V to address these serious federal fiscal problems.

Yes, even the multiple-topic CoSP (Convention of States Project) effort is using the fast growing national debt and unrestrained federal spending as their primary motivator to gain support.  It is unfortunate these five Article V groups are not pooling their resources to more quickly attain the much needed Article V convention of states to propose a fiscal responsibility Constitutional amendment.

It is even more disappointing that more state legislators are not recognizing the powers and responsibilities they have under the fifth Article of the Constitution.  Will things change in the new state legislative year?

In Federalist 85, the last essay written by Alexander Hamilton and published on August 13 and 16, 1788 in an effort to gain ratification of America’s Constitution, he said, We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.”

Was such reliance on state legislators justified?

Judge Brennan:  Long-time Article V Advocate Passes Away –
In recent years he was not well known among modern-era Article V activists, but Judge Thomas E. Brennan Sr. spent much of his later years promoting the use of the fifth Article in the US Constitution as a way to resolve national ills.

Brennan was born on May 27, 1929 in Detroit.  He passed away at age 89 in late September.  He was the founder of the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing.   He was appointed to the Wayne County Circuit Bench in 1963 by Michigan Governor George W. Romney.  In 1966, at the urging of Governor Romney, Brennan ran for and was elected as the 81st Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court… making him the youngest Supreme Court Chief Justice in the history of the state of Michigan.

Judge Brennan was also one of the founders and president of Friends of Article V Convention (FOAVC), a notable resource center formed in 2007, dedicated to gathering existing Article V applications into a readily-accessible “library”.  That year he also wrote the book “The Article V Amendatory Constitutional Convention: Keeping the Republic in the Twenty-First Century.”

Bill Walker, current head of FOAVC says, “Without the support of Tom Brennan, FOAVC would not have come into being.  Without that, none of which is transpiring today would be happening.  FOAVC, with Tom’s help, gathered the [existing] applications for the first time showing Congress is obligated to call the conventions.”  The FOAVC web site/library can be accessed HERE.  Pay particular attention to the linked headings at the top of the opening page.

Brennan hosted the first conference on an Article V Convention at Cooley Law School in Michigan in 2010.  That was considered the precursor to the 2012 Harvard Conference from which many believe much of the Article V movement has since evolved.

Tom Brennan was a giant in legal education,” said WMU-Cooley’s Interim President Jeffrey Martlew.  “More than 20,000 WMU-Cooley graduates owe him a debt of gratitude for pursuing his vision in creating a law school focused on teaching knowledge, skills, and ethics.  Beyond that, Tom had a genuine love for people.  He was a terrific mentor and a true friend, and I shall miss him.”

Air Force Vet Stresses Extent of US National Debt –
There is a web site that few of this newsletter’s readers will be familiar with.  It is called OpsLens.com, run by OpsLens Media Group.  The site provides commentary “on the world’s most trending and critical stories related to national security, [and] public policy… through the lens of experience.”  They indicate their staff is composed of former intelligence, law enforcement and military operators who produce “Experience-Driven Commentary”.

On October 3 this site published a commentary by Chris Carter, US Air Force vet, Director of the Victory Institute, and deputy regional director of the US Counterterrorism Advisory Team.  His piece, entitled “National Debt Crisis: What Does $136 Trillion Look Like” seeks to illustrate graphically and in words how huge the US national debt really is.

Carter’s opening words are what state legislators and Article V supporters need to consider.  “Congress admits to having already spent $21.5 trillion (that’s $21,500,000,000,000.00) they don’t have.  If you are a taxpayer, your share is a little over $58,000.  What your senators and representatives would rather you didn’t know is that our reported debt is like an iceberg: what you see is only the tip.  90 percent of the iceberg lies under the surface.

He says, “The dirty little secret is that we are obligated to pay around $115 trillion – on top of the national debt – to programs like Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.

“Think about all the nice things you could buy with $1 trillion.  Now think about all the nice things you won’t be able to buy, because for the past few years Congress has acted like a criminal that stole your credit card.  Only you can’t call the bank and lock the account; you have to watch them spend your money, sometimes insulting you while they do it.”

He continues by pointing out “Altogether, the U.S. federal government has run up a $136.5 trillion bill that will have to be paid, using figures from usdebtclock.org. Accounting for the unfunded liabilities, every single taxpayer in America is currently on the hook for just under $1 million dollars.  And that doesn’t count the $10 trillion or so of local and state debt and unfunded liabilities.”  Read his entire commentary HERE.

A related Oct. 1 story at CNS News.com by Terence P. Jeffrey points out that in fiscal year 2018 the federal debt increased $1,271,158,167,127.  Meaning it borrowed $8,172 for every American with a job.  Read that piece HERE.

Columnist:  ‘It’s Only Money… the Kids will pay it back’ –
On October 6 Geoffrey Norman, a former editor of Esquire magazine and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Weekly Standard and National Review, wrote a column for the Caledonian Record (Caledonia, Vermont) under the headline It’s Only Money (and the kids will pay it back)”.

He makes the point that [T]he deficit is near peace time highs.  We are gayly increasing the national debt, not paying it down.  And as the economy continues to improve, interest rates will rise and it will cost more to finance the debt.”

While challenging the various justifications for deficit spending he notes, “[We] now spend almost as much in the form of interest on the national debt as we do for defense.  We are not running deficits in order to pay for aircraft carriers.  The money goes to pay for the things we like to have.  Things like Social Security.  And Medicare, one of the things that people over on the left side the room want to make ‘free’.  Which will require even larger deficits and debt, the interest on which will be paid for by future generations.”

The writer laments, “None of this is secret.  Or even news.  We live with it and we shrug it off.  There is no talk of a ‘balanced budget amendment,’ these days.  Or, even, of deficit reduction.”

Mr. Norman warns that America is experiencing “revolutionary times”, perhaps “in the nascent stages of a civil war”.  Read his entire column HERE.

BBA Only Merits ‘Yawn’ from a US Senator –
In a report published in the Oct. 2 New York Post, Delaware Senator Chris Coons complained about the “broken” US Senate.  The story says, “Lawmakers don’t even debate each other on the Senate floor anymore.”

He is quoted as saying “I beat my head against the wall for a couple years having relationships with senators and then found that our staffs were like, ‘no, no, no, have a debate on the floor?  No, we’re not doing that.’  Literally.”

Coons, a Democrat, claimed that at one time he and former Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk set up a one-on-one debate in the Senate on a balanced budget amendment.  “It took six months,” Coons said.

The NY Post story reported, “‘We debated the balanced budget amendment,’ he said and then added a dramatic mock yawn.”  Read the story HERE.

Indiana Voters to Consider a State BBA –
On October 16 the News-Sentinel (Fort Worth, Indiana) published an editorial supporting a balanced budget provision in the Indiana constitution.  The proposed amendment will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Public Question No. 1 reads, “Shall Article 10, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended to require the General Assembly to adopt balanced budgets for state government that do not exceed estimated revenues unless a supermajority of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate vote to suspend the requirement?”

The proposed constitutional amendment originated last year as Senate Joint Resolution 7, where it was approved 43 to 4.  The Indiana House then approved the measure 94 to 4.  The amendment was first proposed by Vice President Mike Pence as Indiana governor in his 2015 State of the State address.  Read the supportive editorial HERE.

Economist Warns of Upcoming Federal Budgeting Proposals –
An opinion piece by respected economist Barry Poulson was published in the Oct. 1 edition of the Washington Examiner under the heading “Congress must reform its budget process, but not like this”.

Poulson points out that Congress continues to suspend the spending caps to ensure spending bills are passed.  He says “It is easy to reach bipartisan agreement on a budget when there are no budget constraints.”

This year, the House appointed a Joint Select Committee on Budget Process Reform. The committee is scheduled to make its recommendations for budget process reform measures this month.

According to Poulson, “The reform measures proposed by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., co-chair of the committee, will come as a shock to many.  Her proposals would facilitate passage of appropriations, even when there is no budget resolution agreement.  Lowey aims to increase the 2020 spending caps, and then allow them to expire permanently after 2021.  Lowey’s proposals would give the president the authority to suspend the debt ceiling, and then repeal the debt ceiling permanently.  In short, Lowey’s proposals would give Congress the authority to spend taxpayer dollars without restraint.”

Professor Poulson says that Congress “ought to reconsider the budget reforms put forth in 2016 by the House Budget Committee, chaired by former Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.  The recommendations focused on solving the debt crisis in the long run by strengthening fiscal rules and implementing spending restraints.  In particular, the committee noted the success of new fiscal rules adopted in the European Union.”

Poulson points to the Swiss rules which “require a cyclically balanced budget with deficits in periods of recession offset by surplus revenue in periods of expansion.  An emergency fund allows them to exceed the spending limit in response to unforeseen events.”  Read Poulson’s entire piece HERE.

Also during October, DailySignal.com (Heritage Foundation) published a related piece on federal budgeting entitled America Cannot Afford for Congress to Abandon the Budget Caps”Read it HERE.

State Senator Sets Record Straight on an Article V Convention –
The Lincoln, Nebraska Journal Star recently carried a column by Nebraska State Senator Steve Halloran entitled Convention of states would stop runaway federal government”.

Halloran uses the piece to refute misinformation about the Convention of States Project, published earlier by the Journal-Star, written by a local law professor.  He points out, “The Convention of States Project is not a special interest group.  Its members are Democrats, Libertarians and Republicans, who are concerned about the direction of our country.  Berger [writer of the earlier piece] indicates we are an ‘insignificant group.’  The Convention of States Project has more 3 million supporters nationally, and 1 million-plus petition signers.”

Senator Halloran points to numerous unproven myths and speculation written by the law professor.  He says, “The runaway convention argument is erroneous because it is based on the dubious assumption that an incredibly unbelievable series events will all occur without a single one of them being challenged.  There are far more political and legal constraints on an Article V convention of states than there are on a runaway Congress.”

Halloran’s piece is a good template for other state legislators to use when addressing Article V cynics.  Read his column HERE.

The Limitations of Article V –
In response to recent clamoring to get rid of the Electoral College and give more power to larger states by reconfiguring the US Senate (as exemplified by articles in GQ MagazineMother Jones and the Wall Street Journal)… on October 11 TheFederalist.com published a piece by Kyle Sammin that made clear Article V has its limitations.

Sammin quoted NBC’s Ken Dilanian as re-tweeting “It may not happen in our lifetimes, but the idea that North Dakota and New York get the same representation in the Senate has to change.”

As Sammin says, “The Constitution can be amended, and it has been 27 times, but one thing cannot be changed: equal representation in the Senate.  As Article V states, ‘no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.’  You may hate the idea that there are two senators from North Dakota, but to get rid of them you’ll not only have to amend the Constitution but you’ll also have to get North Dakota to agree to it.  That’s never going to happen.”  Read his 6-page piece HERE.

Election Reform Groups Seek Use of Article V in NE US –
According to the Hartford, Connecticut Journal Inquirer, that state’s lawmakers are renewing their efforts to make Connecticut the sixth state to pass an Article V application focused on campaign finance reform.

The effort in Connecticut is being led by Wolf-PAC, a super-PAC dedicated to federal campaign finance reform.  It is reportedly being supported by a partisan group of 33 legislative candidates, who have vowed to support the measure if it is called for a vote next session.

Called The Free and Fair Elections Resolution, it was passed by that state’s House in 2015 on a 77 to 64 vote.  Read the full story HERE.

The Baltimore Sun reports that a similar effort is under way in Maryland, being led by a group called GetMoneyOutMD.org.  This group describes itself as an “all-volunteer, self-funded campaign for grassroots democracy”.

A Final Thought…

“There comes a time when one must take a position
that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular,
but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” 

Martin Luther King Jr.

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