September 2018 Newsletter

This month…

  • Article V Applications are Missing
  • Natelson Study Questions Seven Article V ‘Rescissions’
  • UK Pub Reported on ALEC Convention / Article V Efforts
  • BBA Group Announces Prominent New Board Members
  • Forbes Article Suggests Use of Article V to Legalize Marijuana
  • CNN Says National Debt is Becoming a Pressing Issue
  • Economists Highlight Fiscal Rules to Fight National Debt
  • Italy at Odds over Constitutional Balanced Budget Provision
  • Wolf-PAC Leader Calls on Progressives: Support an A5 Confab

Article V Applications are Missing –
Gregory Watson, the researcher who unearthed one of James Madison’s unratified proposed constitutional amendments and shepherded it through final ratification (now the 27th Amendment) issued a notice that at least four state-adopted Article V applications still have not made their way to both houses of Congress in Washington, D.C.
 
According to Mr. Watson, the missing filings are from Nebraska (2010 – LR538), Tennessee (2014 – HJR548), Utah (2015 – HJR7) and Wyoming (2017 – HJR2.  He also points out that BBA-focused applications from Arkansas (1979) and Pennsylvania (1976) are still not showing up on the website maintained by the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.  That site is HERE
 
 
Natelson Study Questions Seven Article V ‘Rescissions’ –
In a new posting entitled “Are Recent “Rescissions” of Article V Applications Valid?” Article V scholar Rob Natelson says “recent state ‘rescissions’ suffer from errors that could void them”.  His new research is posted at the Article V Information Center (a project of the Independence Institute).
 
Natelson has studied the various efforts by state legislatures to rescind previous applications for an Article V convention (17 since 2001).  He points to “material mistakes” in seven of those efforts which could render them ineffective.  He refers to them as “the dirty seven”.
 
Natelson concludes by saying, “If lawmakers considering these rescissions had been told the truth rather than given disinformation, these rescissions might never have been passed.  Initially, at least, this is an issue for Congress, because the Constitution gives the initial responsibility for counting applications and rescissions to Congress.  When counting applications and rescissions, therefore, Congress will have to weigh whether or not to count purported rescissions flawed by material mistakes”.
 
Read his report HERE.
 
 
UK Publication Reported on ALEC Convention / Article V Efforts –
The UK-based The Guardian covered the recent American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) 45th Annual convention in New Orleans.  Their August 11 edition carried a story under the headline “Conservatives call for constitutional intervention last seen 230 years ago”.
 
The report focused on the Convention of States Projects (CoSP) presentations at the confab.  As is so often the case in mainstream media reporting of Article V-related news, the article included an abundance of misinformation and fear-stimulating quotes from folks like Jay Riestenberg of Common Cause. 
 
It did, however, include some good quotes from CoSP spokesman and former US Senator Tom Coburn.  He was quoted as saying that the American republic is “failing”, and that an Article V convention is the “only answer” to the problems the country faces today.  He said, “We’re in a battle for the future of our country … We’re either going to become a socialist, Marxist country like western Europe, or we’re going to be free.”
 
Regarding the prospects for an Article V convention, Coburn told The Guardian, “I think we’re three or four years away.”  CoSP has 12 states that have adopted its triple-subject application.
 
To read the entire Guardian article (including its inaccurate account on the origins of America’s 1787 Constitution), click HERE.
 
 
BBA Group Announces Prominent New Board Members –
The 501(c)4 BBA Task Force which lists 28 current state applications for an Article V convention to focus on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, has issued an update on its sister 501(c)3 organization, the BBA Foundation (also known as the Center for State-led National Debt Solutions).  The Foundation is the educational and fundraising arm of the BBA effort.
 
The Foundation announced that its new board of directors now includes Mike Huckabee (former Arkansas Governor), Steve Moore (Economist and Senior Fellow, Heritage Foundation), George Allen (former Virginia Governor and US Senator), Judd Gregg (former New Hampshire Governor and US Senator), Connie Mack (former Florida Congressman and author of the “Mack Penny Plan”), Norm Coleman (former Minnesota US Senator), Admiral Bill Owens (former four-star Admiral and Vice-Chair of the Joint Chiefs), and Ed Schafer (former North Dakota Governor).   
 
In announcing the new board, Bill Fruth, BBA Task Force co-founder, pointed out that the reason for the BBA effort is that the national debt is now $21.3 trillion, and increasing annually by about a trillion dollars.  Interest on that debt is rapidly increasing.
 
Fruth notes, “We are rapidly approaching the time when interest payments on the national debt and the mandatory repayment of the money taken from Social Security and the Military Retirement Fund will exceed the budget for national defense and account for at least 25% of all federal government spending.”
 
Working together, the two BBA groups plan a major push during the 2019 state legislative sessions.

 
Forbes Article Suggests Use of Article V to Legalize Marijuana –
An article by Sara Brittnay Somerset in the August 12 edition of Forbes reports that “As the fight for country-wide marijuana legalization gains momentum, lawyers have come up with some innovative ideas for challenging prohibition,” including the use of Article V.
 
The Forbes story discusses the long history of legal decisions related to the Schedule I classification cannabis under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970.  In spite of that classification, some 30 states have legalized the sale and certain uses of marijuana at one level or another.
 
Intellectual property attorney Karen Bernstein, at the recent Cannabis Law Summit in New York City, suggested that there may be an opportunity to force the hand of the recalcitrant Congress under Article V of the United States Constitution.
 
The writer says that “This is an attractive possibility to circumvent the stubbornness of Congress and the courts.  To obtain the initial two-thirds support, or for 34 states to call for the conference of states, may not be a long shot.  With 30 states having legalized cannabis already, that is presumptively 30 votes in hand.  With several more states contemplating legalization, it may not be that far-fetched to solicit and expect an additional four votes that would then constitute the required number for that convention to be called.”
 
Unfortunately, Ms. Bernstein includes some misinformation about Article V.  She says: “If the proposed amendment is passed in Congress…  then the Constitution will be amended.”  That’s not one of the ways to ratify a proposed constitutional amendment.  One of the sources she quotes says: “It won’t work, because it requires 26 congressional reps to have a plurality. … However, even if the bill does pass, it still has to go to POTUS’ desk, and he could veto it”. The President has no role in the Article V process.  Read the Bernstein article HERE.
 
 
CNN Says National Debt is Becoming a Pressing Issue –
A recent story on CNN.com was headlined “National debt is about to roar back to life as a pressing issue”.  The piece by Maya MacGuineas says “the national debt is about to roar back to life as a pressing issue after years of hibernation”.
 
The story reports on the 2010 Presidential appointment of a bipartisan national fiscal commission (the so-called Bowles-Simpson Commission)… a commission that produced good recommendations that were never adopted.  Instead, the national debt has continued to grow by the second, “resulting from irresponsible policy choices”.
 
According to the CNN story, if nothing is done, “In 2022, the Highway Trust Fund will run out of full funding.  In 2026, the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund follows.  In 2032, the Social Security trust fund surpluses run dry, and all beneficiaries regardless of age or income level will face a 21 percent across-the-board benefit cut.  Before 2030, we could have trillion-dollar annual interest payments”.
 
Read the entire CNN story HERE.
 
 
Economists Highlight Fiscal Rules to Fight National Debt –
On August 3 The American Spectator carried a piece by economists Dr. Barry Poulson and Prof. John Merrifield entitled “How debt is shaping up to be our undoing”.  The article reviews the 2018 CBO “Long-Term Budget Outlook” and concludes “Unfortunately for all Americans, it’s even worse than many expected”.
 
They note that the Congressional Budget Office report predicts the national debt will eventually be more than double the national income… in just 30 years.
 
The writers suggest that “Congress must abandon illusory Keynesian economics and implement commonsense budgeting principles. Like Ulysses in The Odyssey, we must tie politicians to the mast of fiscal rules to constrain spending.”  They offer a set of suggested fiscal rules that have proven to be effective in constraining spending and reducing debt in other OECD countries…. rules that would limit spending and impose a deficit/debt brake to prevent Congress from pursuing unsustainable fiscal policies.
 
They conclude by saying, “Without drastic action, America will surely find itself cascading off the fiscal cliff in the coming decades.  It’s not a matter of ‘if’” it’s a matter of when”.  Read The American Spectator article HERE.
 
—– Related —–
 
An August 15 article by the same authors in The American Thinker asks “Should We Watch Wile E. Coyote Go Off the Cliff?”
 
In this article they say “In 2018, Ben Bernanke, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, stated that fiscal stimulus ‘is going to hit the economy in a big way this year and next, and then in 2020, Wile E. Coyote is going to go off the cliff.’  Bernanke was referring to the return of trillion-dollar deficits added on top of the $21 trillion national debt that the federal government has already accumulated.”
 
They lament, “Unfortunately, the US government seems to have abandoned the vestiges of the ‘old time fiscal religion.’  In other words, deficits don’t matter anymore, at least according to elected officials.  With the exception of a few years in the 1990s, the government has consistently incurred massive deficits and accumulated a mindboggling national debt.” 
 
They conclude this piece by saying, “[W]e don’t need to watch Wile E. Coyote go over the cliff this time around.  Other countries have shown that with effective fiscal rules in place, the government can balance the budget and reduce debt to sustainable levels.  In our research, we propose similar fiscal rules for the US government”. 
 
In their book Restoring America’s Fiscal Constitution (New York, Lexington Books, 2017), they offer specific fiscal rules that they believe Congress should adopt or have imposed on them through a Constitutional amendment.  Read their American Thinker article HERE.
 
A variation of this article was also published in the Washington Examiner.  Find it HERE.
 
 
Italy at Odds over Constitutional Balanced Budget Provision –
In 2012 Italy’s parliament approved a constitutional balanced budget amendment (during the euro zone debt crisis).  That action was taken under the government led by Mario Monti.  It had been proposed the previous year by Monti’s predecessor Silvio Berlusconi in an effort to calm financial markets as Italy’s borrowing costs increased.
 
The provision took effect in 2014, but since then Italy has never achieved a balanced budget, and parliament has voted to make a temporary exception each year to approve the governments’ spending plans.  Now Italy’s current administration says the best way to bring down public debt is by “investing more to boost economic growth, rather than try to balance the budget each year.”
 
According to a Nasdaq.com story, Italy’s deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio says Italy should scrap the clause in its constitution.  “I think that in future it should be cancelled,” Di Maio is reported to have said in a recent television interview.
 
Other current government leaders in Italy say the balanced budget rule needs changing because it “makes it impossible to adopt effective anti-cyclical policies”.  Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said the government had no plan to scrap the balanced budget clause.  Read the Nasdaq article HERE.
 
 
Wolf-PAC Leader to Progressives: Support an A5 Convention –
In an early August TV interview, Cenk Uygur (leader of the Wolf-PAC effort which is currently seeking an Article V convention to propose a constitutional provision to overturn the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision) calls on fellow Progressives to support the state-led convention approach to getting desired constitutional amendments.
 
Directing his comments to Progressive Article V detractors and prominent anti-Article V Progressive Robert Reich (Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration), Uyger says “Robert, we love you brother, but you’re wrong.”  He suggests that Reich’s description of Article V and its processes as “a boogeyman” are “bordering on a lie”.  In the 9-minute video Uygur describes Article V as “crystal clear”.
 
In his typical vivacious style, Uyger says, “What we want to propose is fair and free elections… and guess what, conservatives agree with us… the whole country agrees with us”.  In the video Uyger presents a mostly accurate description of how Article V works.  He directly addresses Common Cause, saying “Please stop spreading misinformation”.
 
Appealing for support from both Conservatives and Progressives, Uyger ends the TV interview with “If you want real change and you don’t want to get bottled-up by so-called Progressive groups that have calcified in Washington, DC and are in favor of the status quo, [go to] Wolf-PAC.com”.  See the interview HERE.
 
—– RELATED —–
 
On August 24 Wolf-PAC released a video filmed at a recent “Wolf-PAC Warrior Workshop”.  In that video Harvard Prof. Larry Lessig gave a 36-minute presentation on why the Article V movement “cannot be … cannot seem to be … partisan”.  He gave an excellent overview of why Congress must be fixed while describing Article V as “the least understood clause” in the Constitution”. 
 
Lessig called on both the far right and the far left to shed their “constitutional ignorance”, to stop fearmongering, and to work together to use the state-led convention process to propose constitutional amendments 
 
Both Republicans and Democrats… conservatives and liberals… all Article V activists… will want to consider Lessig’s counsel.  Watch and listen to him HERE.
 
 
Who Said It?
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit
is a sign of leadership failure.  It is a sign that the US Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.
 
And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses
in the Federal budget.  This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy,
robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.
Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment
in America’s priorities.  Instead, interest payments are a significant tax on all Americans — a debt tax that Washington doesn’t want to talk about.
If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country,
we would see an effort to reduce our national debt
by returning to responsible fiscal policies.
 
Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally.
Leadership means that “the buck stops here.”
Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today
onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.
America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. 
Americans deserve better.
Senator Barack Obama
remarks on the Senate floor on March 16, 2006

 

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