October 2019 Newsletter

This Month…
  • Now is the Time to Start Reducing the National Debt
  • Columnist Says US Government is Facing Insolvency
  • Single-Year Trillion Dollar US Deficit Surpassed
  • Democrat Congressmen Appeal for Fiscal Responsibility
  • Ohio Sen. Huffman Calls for Convention to Address Debt
  • Is a ‘Plenary’ Article V Convention a Viable Option?
  • The Implications of the National Popular Vote Movement
  • An Update on Missing Article V Applications


Now is the Time to Start Reducing the National Debt –
“Expecting economic growth to rescue the US from unprecedented federal deficits is a dangerous gamble, as history shows,” says Valerie Ramey (a professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego) in a recent Wall Street Journal piece entitled “It’s Time to Start Worrying About the National Debt”.

Ms. Ramey says, “The usual voices urging fiscal restraint have been drowned out by some policy makers and academic economists who … are urging us in the fashion of Dr. Strangelove to ‘learn to stop worrying and love the national debt’.”

The author identifies numerous reasons why federal leaders must deal with the national debt problem now.  She says “Prudent governments keep their fiscal house in order during good times so that they have more fiscal room to deal with bad times”.  Read her entire article HERE.

Columnist Says US Government is Facing Insolvency –
On August 31 Townhall carried a warning by columnist Beau Rothschild entitled “US Government Facing Insolvency if Nothing Changes”.  He says “Our government is facing some serious problems with spending with no solution in sight”.

Rothschild points to a May 2019 report by The Heritage Foundation that made it clear that spending, not a lack of tax revenues, is the primary problem: “The long-run debt problem is not driven by a lack of revenue.  CBO data indicate that over the next 10 years, revenues will be above the 50-year average.”  He says “Our national debt is at approximately $22.5 trillion and we are staring down $1 trillion in annual deficits for as long as the eye can see.”

“Maybe politicians are incapable of reform,” says Rothschild, “and need to be subject to a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Sadly, it might take insolvency for any reforms to be put in place.  Restraint is needed and if things don’t change, our nation is staring at insolvency and future generations of Americans will have a lower standard of living than we enjoy today.”  Read his piece HERE.

Single-Year Trillion Dollar US Deficit Surpassed –
A September 9 report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said “The federal budget deficit was $1.067 billion for the first 11 months of fiscal 2019…”.  That report says that although the federal revenues were $102 billion higher than the same period in fiscal year 2018, the federal outlays were $271 billion higher than the same period in fiscal year 2018.  Problem?  Do you think?

On September 16 the Daily Signal (Heritage Foundation) carried a commentary by David Ditch.  It said that federal revenues are up 3.4% from 2018, but that “The driving force behind America’s astronomical deficit is the rapid increase in spending.  Federal outlays are up 7% compared to 2018, which far outstrips inflation, population growth, and the economy.”

Ditch points out: “With robust global growth over the last several years, a majority of developed nations are taking advantage by shrinking the size of their debt relative to the size of the economy. This ratio, often written as ‘debt-to-GDP’, is important because it points to how well a nation can afford its current level of debt.”  By contrast, he then provides a chart that shows the US leading the world in increased national debt.

His chart, based on International Monetary Fund figures, shows the projected change in debt, 2019-2024, in percentage points of GDP, by the 10 largest advanced economies.  These are the projections:
US national debt is expected to rise 13.4%; Italy – 7.7%; Korea – 1.7%; and Japan – 1.3%.  Meanwhile national debt is projected to decline by 2.3% in Spain, 2.4% in France; 2.5% in Australia; 4.9% in Canada; 6.6% in the United Kingdom; and 12.6% in Germany.

Ditch notes that “Although the 2019 deficit could ultimately dip below $1 trillion depending on September’s numbers, the fact remains that even a “mere” $960+ billion deficit for the year is inexcusable.”  Read his detailed piece HERE.

For those who want to dig into the nitty-gritty of the CBO report, it can be found HERE.

Democrat Congressmen Appeal for Fiscal Responsibility –
An early September news release sent out by US Rep. Sharice Davids (KS) describes her efforts to lead a group of Democratic House freshman colleagues “to recommit to fiscal responsibility and abide by Congressional Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) budget rules, which ensure that any legislation that may increase the federal deficit is offset by spending cuts or revenue increase”.

Nine other Democratic US House members signed on in support of Rep. Davids’ efforts.

“Congress must do what we said we would and find ways to pay for bills we propose so we don’t leave future generations mired in debt. That starts with our Committee Chairs prioritizing fiscal responsibility and transparency, and ensuring we have a plan to pay for our priorities before bills make it to the House floor for a vote,” said Davids.

Ohio Sen. Huffman Calls for Convention to Address Debt –
In an early September speech to a Lima Ohio Optimist Club, State Senator Matt Huffman peppered his talk with historical trivia about the nation’s founding and a history lesson on the Constitution.  He ended with a warning about America’s future.

Talking about the federal debt, Huffman said, “The debt has grown exponentially since Sept. 11, 2001, since 18 years ago. It didn’t just happen under President Trump. It didn’t just happen under President Obama. It really started under President George Bush, the second. … Eventually, what will happen is the federal government won’t be able to pay for the things that they are paying for right now.”

“There’s no plan for the federal government to deal with the national debt. There is no plan,” Huffman said. “It doesn’t matter if we have Democrats in control or Republicans in control because it’s the same group of people making lots of money from Washington.”

Huffman told his audience his preferred solution is a major convention organized by the states to offer a balanced budget amendment. He stressed that the states need the federal government to stay in business, and that his proposal could bring spending back into control without relying on the “guys and gals who are all in charge of the money and power in Washington”.

Senator Huffman also opined: “There are a lot of things that should be in our Constitution. The president should be able to have a line item veto, in my opinion. The federal government should not be able to dictate terms for accepting federal money in certain programs. Some people want to abolish the electoral college. Some people want to overturn Citizens United … For my money, if 38 of the 50 states thinks it’s a good idea, then we should do that. That’s the only real opportunity.”

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In a related story, a mid-September interview with The Columbia Daily Herald, US Senator Martha Blackburn (TN) reported on conversations she had just completed with local business leaders.

“They are concerned about the federal debt and want us to use this as a time to get it down. Just about everyone in the room supported a balanced budget amendment. This is a group of people who understand that the county’s [credit] rating is important, and the state’s rating is important. They want the federal government to start working the debt down and not passing it along to our grandchildren.”

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Another related report by GovTrack Insider on September 11, told about The Budgetary Accuracy in Scoring Interest Costs (BASIC) Act that would require any federal governmental spending or budget projections made by the Congressional Budget Office or Joint Committee on Taxation must include costs related to interest on the national debt.

By way of context, the federal deficit was $779 billion last year. It is projected to rise to $960 billion this year.  On its current path, the deficit will exceed $1 trillion annually for the next decade.

Interest owed for the national debt is also increasing.  Interest on the debt was $325 billion last year. It’s projected to rise to $372 billion this year. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) currently projects that by a decade from now, in 2029, a single year of interest expense will be $807 billion.  The report suggests that to put it another way, a decade from now, interest on the deficit alone will be higher than the entire deficit was last year.

The House version of the proposed act (HR 3979) has attracted just two cosponsors.  It awaits a potential vote in either the House Rules or House Budget Committee.  The Senate version (S 2435) has also just attracted two cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Budget Committee.  The bills are given zero chance of passage.  See this report HERE.

Is a ‘Plenary’ Article V Convention a Viable Option? –
Paul Gardiner is a Georgia-based man who has been active in Article V efforts for several years.  He has served in state and national leadership positions for the Convention of States Project (CoSP).  Gardiner has written a paper he calls “A Fresh View of a Constitutional Article V Convention of States”.

Gardiner notes that “Conventional wisdom says that an Article V convention of states (COS) to propose constitutional amendments can and/or must be a ‘limited’ convention where the delegates are limited and authorized to only propose, debate and vote on one or a limited set of amendments”.  His paper presents arguments why this may not be the case.

The author (a retired Army officer, Vietnam veteran, and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Alabama, and the United States Army War College) does not present himself as a constitutional scholar, but relies on his leadership experience in the Article V movement, his personal study of colonial conventions, and the actions of early state legislators as they applied for an Article V convention of states after ratification of the US Constitution.  He also studied the work of noted constitutional scholars and related rulings of the US Supreme Court.

Gardiner’s paper leads to questions about the viability of applications for a “limited” Article V convention, and suggests that a plenary (unlimited) convention is what the drafters of Article V actually contemplated as they “established a new way to govern a nation based on federalism”.

In view of his findings as they relate to current Article V movements, Gardiner suggests “perhaps [a] prudent alternative/additional course of action is for current Article V groups, in conjunction with key state legislators and officials, to thoroughly investigate using 34+ existing aggregated, qualifying applications to call for a [non-limited] COS where any and all amendments can be proposed, debated, and voted upon.  Recent analyses indicate that at least 30 such qualifying applications currently exist”.

Gardiner concludes by saying “It would appear that the various Article V groups have everything to gain and little to lose from pursuing such a strategy.”  And, [S]imply dismissing a [non-limited] COS as an improbability without a thorough, well-funded investigation does a disservice to all Americans.  Further, the American people could be potentially deprived of the use of a crucially important ‘checks and balances’ tool purposely put into the constitution by the Founders”.  Read Gardiner’s 3-page whitepaper (with bibliography) HERE.

The Implications of the National Popular Vote Movement –
This newsletter tries to focus exclusively on Article V and federalism issues and developments.  For that reason, until now, no space has been given to the Electoral College vs. National Popular Vote issue.

A significant and growing portion of US citizens, regardless of party affiliation, has begun to question the institution known as the Electoral College.  In the mistaken belief that the American form of government is primarily a pure democratic one, citizens (and often their legislators) consider the Electoral College a relic of the past, or error of the Founders that needs to be done away with.

It should be noted that the words “Electoral College” do not appear anywhere in the US Constitution or any of its amendments.  However “electors” who comprise the so-called Electoral College are referenced numerous times in both the original Constitution and four of the ratified amendments.  In other words, the concept of the Electoral College as a mechanism for electing the nation’s two principle executives is interwoven throughout America’s principle governing document.

If… a big IF… that mechanism is to be constitutionally replaced, the Constitution would have to be amended.  There is provision for that possibility in the fifth Article of the Constitution.  Unfortunately the promoters of the current National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) have made no effort to use that constitutional provision.

Also IF that mechanism were to be replaced, it would have a significant impact on another concept that is interwoven throughout the US Constitution… federalism… the notion that American is first and foremost a federation of states with governing powers divided between the national government and the states.

For these reasons this newsletter will begin containing content to assist state legislators in understanding the many implications surrounding the Electoral College vs. the Popular Vote concept.

As a start, readers are referred to two brief YouTube videos.  The first, an argument in favor of NPVIC, can be viewed HERE.  The second, presented by Tara Ross on behalf of Prager University, explains why the Electoral College protects the interests of individual states and their voters.  See it HERE.

Those wanting a more in-depth understanding of the issues should read a recent article published in American Thinker entitled “Time to confront the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact“.  The brief thoughtful article can be found HERE.

An Update on Missing Article V Applications – 
The past few editions of this newsletter have highlighted various state-approved Article V convention applications that were never properly received by Congress.  There has been progress.

Constitutional amendment expert Gregory Watson reports that Tennessee’s 2014 House Joint Resolution No. 548 (for a BBA-focused convention) was belatedly received by the US Senate, as reflected on page S5406 of the September 10, 2019 Senate portion of the Congressional Record.  On September 11 Mississippi’s 2019 Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 596 (a CoSP [Convention of States Project] convention application) was formally received by both the US House and Senate.  Then on September 19 Arkansas’ 2019 Senate Joint Resolution (another CoSP application) was officially filed with both houses of Congress.

Mr. Watson points out that the following BBA-focused Article V applications have yet to be fully and properly filed with Congress: Nebraska’s 2010 Legislative Resolution No. 538 has not been formally received by either the US House or Senate.  Both Utah’s 2015 House Joint Resolution No. 7 and Wyoming’s 2017 House Enrolled Joint Resolution No. 2, while filed with the US House, have yet to be formally received by the US Senate.

Likewise, the following Article V applications related to the CoSP effort have yet to be fully/properly filed with Congress:  Louisiana’s 2016 Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 52, while filed with the US House, has still not been formally received by the US Senate.  Utah’s 2019 Senate Joint Resolution No. 9 has been filed with the US House, but still has not been formally received by the US Senate.

Gaining approval of Article V state applications is such a time-consuming process, it would be sad to see all that work go to waste by failure to properly and fully notify both houses of Congress of that state action.

When drafting Article V applications, the drafters need to carefully include directions as to who (what state official) is responsible for transmitting the approved version of the resolution to both houses of Congress.

In an effort to assist state legislatures and state officials who are tasked with notifying Congress of a jointly-approved Article V application, the State Legislators’ Article V Caucus has prepared a five-page guide entitled “The Proper Way to Transmit State-Approved Article V Applications to Congress”.  It can be found HERE.

A Thought to Consider…

[The States] have become a shadow of the full-players envisioned by the founders. Rather than the strong political counterbalance to the federal government, states have become anemic supplicants, going to Washington with their hands out, pleading for more federal tax money. Without steady counter pressure from unified states, the momentum of Washington’s budget, influence and arrogance will inevitably grow.”
Former Utah Governor Mike Levitt
Written in a 2009 article entitled
“The Unbridled Growth of Federal Power and the Complacency of the States”
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