September 2020 Newsletter

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In the US, Thursday, September 17 is Constitution Day (also known as Citizenship Day), celebrating the day in 1787 when the US Constitution was formally signed in Philadelphia by 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, leading to it becoming America’s principle governing document.

In honor of that special day, the State Legislators’ Article V Caucus will be hosting a free one-hour online presentation entitled “Restoring the American Voice” beginning at 8 PM (Eastern Time).  The informative event will focus on how, in a time when Americans are increasingly frustrated with government, state legislators are meant to be the guardian of that American voice. To register and receive sign-in info, click HERE.

This Month…

  • US Federal Credit Rating Downgraded
  • Forbes:  Expect $78 Trillion National Debt by 2028
  • New Internet Site Tracks COVID-related Federal Spending
  • ALEC: BBA Could Resolve America’s Debt Problems
  • Law Professor: Article V Should Not be Trusted
  • ERA Questions are Now in District Courts
  • CoSP University Offers Course on the Constitution
  • Left-Leaning Group Proposes Term Limits for SCOTUS
  • An Alternative View of Needed Federal Governance Reforms

US Federal Credit Rating Downgraded –
According to a July 31 report by Benjamin Purvis, published by Bloomberg News, Fitch Ratings, one of the world’s major credit-rating companies, revised its outlook on America’s credit score from “stable” to “negative.”

The Purvis report quotes Fitch as saying, “High fiscal deficits and debt were already on a rising medium-term path even before the onset of the huge economic shock precipitated by the coronavirus.”

Purvis reported that Fitch says, “General government debt is expected to exceed 130% of GDP by 2021, noting that the US had the highest government debt of any AAA rated sovereign heading into the current crisis.”  The report notes that “Fitch is not the first major ratings company to take a less-than-stellar view of America’s public finances.”  Read the entire Purvis article HERE.

The Heritage Foundation also published a piece on the Fitch downgrade under the headline Latest US Credit Outlook Downgrade Should Be the Wake-Up Call Our Leaders Need.  It said, “This is yet another strong signal that the rapid growth of the national debt is unsustainable.”  Read it HERE.

Forbes:  Expect $78 Trillion National Debt by 2028 –
On August 14 Forbes had an even gloomier outlook.  Mike Patton, a Senior Contributor for Forbes, wrote an extensive piece on how America’s debt burden has grown since 1971 when the federal government abandoned the gold standard.Patton says, [T]he average fiscal deficit was minor before 1971 as Washington exercised greater restraint with its spending.  Once the gold standard was removed however, the shackles fell away as Congress could vote to establish a new, higher credit limit, as needed.”

Based on reports produced by the Bank of International Settlements (the BIS, located in Basel, Switzerland, is owned by 62 central banks from countries around the world that collectively represent 95% of total global GDP) Patton says, “When government debt exceeds 85% of GDP, economic growth slows.  Currently, the federal debt to GDP ratio is 136.58%.  Thus, we can expect slower economic growth in the future.  The report also states that as federal debt rises beyond this threshold, a country is less able to handle an unexpected crisis.”

Saying that “additional debt will create systemic problems which, at some point, may be impossible to escape,” Patton warns “America is at a crossroad.  If the national debt rises as projected ($45 trillion in 2024 and $78 trillion in 2028), Americans will feel the pain as labor markets tighten, the gap between the top 10% and the bottom 50% widens, and social unrest grows.”  Read Patton’s well-documented piece HERE.

On August 23 the Wall Street Journal carried a story entitled Coronavirus Lifts Government Debt to WWII Levels—Cutting It Won’t Be Easy by Josn Zumbrun.  It stated that “Among advanced economies, debt rose to 128% of global gross domestic product as of July, according to the International Monetary Fund. In 1946, it came to 124%.”

The writer said, “After World War II, advanced economies brought down debt quickly, thanks in large part to rapid economic growth. The ratio of debt to GDP fell by more than half, to less than 50%, by 1959. It is likely to be harder this time, for reasons involving demographics, technology and slower growth.”  Read the Zumbrun piece HERE.

New Internet Site Tracks COVID-related Federal Spending –
With the current pandemic proving to be a major cause of substantial increases to the national debt, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) has launched what it calls the COVID Money Tracker program.  CRFB says, [T]he public deserves to know how their dollars are being spent.  COVID Money Tracker will track every significant financial action taken to address the current crisis and then follow the dollars over time to provide valuable information on how much has been disbursed (or paid back) and to whom.”

The Money Tracker program has an interactive database where users can search, sort, and track the actions taken and dollars disbursed in the current crisis.  Access it HERE.

ALEC: BBA Could Resolve America’s Debt Problems –
On August 11 the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) published an article by Karla Jones entitled A Balanced Budget Amendment Could Put America on a Sustainable Fiscal Path.

The article highlighted one of the workshops held in conjunction with the group’s Annual Meeting, and includes a link to a video of that workshop.  Ms. Jones’ article noted that one of the workshop’s panelists, Ohio Senator Matt Huffman said, [I]t is time for all Americans to reject ‘infighting’ in order to meet this challenge, and that we need ‘more robust state legislative involvement in this process’.”

Jones said, “Highlighting the threat posed by America’s national debt (now higher than every industrialized economy except Portugal, Greece, Japan and Italy) is a valuable exercise in fiscal responsibility. Raising the profile of an Article V convention of the states as a tool available to the states to drive national initiatives, including to propose a BBA, is an important contribution to the popular discourse. It also underscores the power of America’s system of federalism to address our nation’s most intractable challenges.”  Read her article HERE.

Associated Press Covered the ALEC Workshop –
Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker wrote a report on the above workshop that was carried by numerous newspapers across the country, including the New York Times.  It was headlined Budget hawks hatch plan to force constitutional convention.  Read it HERE.

The Biesecker report was favorable, but included some substantial inaccuracies about the Article V processes.  The article focused on a proposal advanced at the workshop that since Congress continues to turn a blind eye to the scores of Article V applications it has received, a federal mandamus lawsuit could force Congress to call an Article V Convention to propose a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.

The Beisecker story said that workshop participant David Biddulph advocated for ”… recruiting state attorneys general to file a legal order demanding that Congress recognize the 34 state resolutions and convene a constitutional convention.  If Congress refuses, the AGs would sue in federal court.”  Biddulph was also quoted as saying, “We think that the shortest path to actually getting a date for an Article V convention is through the Supreme Court.”

Biddulph, of the Let Us Vote for a BBA campaign, promptly notified Biesecker about the inaccuracies and provided links to improve his understanding of the Article V process.  Biddulph’s reply can be read HERE.

Law Professor Opines that Article V Should Not be Trusted –
Upon learning of the above referenced potential mandamus legal action, Georgetown University law professor David A Super promptly wrote a blog posting which offered his opinions on the proposed legal action, and criticized the idea.

Super has long been a critic of all matters related to the use of the Constitution’s Fifth Article.  He says “An Article V convention, particularly in the current polarized environment, could do incalculable damage.”  Followed to their extreme conclusion, Super’s views effectively say “Don’t trust this part of the US Constitution.”  Read his writings on the proposed mandamus action HERE.

ERA Questions are Now in District Courts –
ERA (the Equal Rights Amendment that was proposed by Congress in 1972) advocates are also using the courts to advance their proposed constitutional amendment.  On August 11 a blog site known as Just Security carried a piece by Russ Feingold entitled US Court Skirmishes Over Deadline’s Validity Leave ERA in Limbo.  Feingold is a former US Senator from Wisconsin, and currently the president of the American Constitution Society.

The Feingold piece notes the two big hurdles ERA proponents are currently having to deal with in court: the long-passed Congressionally-imposed deadline for ratification, and the fact that legislatures in five states have acted to rescind earlier ratifications of the ERA proposal.  Then he offers a fairly complete history of the movement.  Read Feingold’s article HERE.

The following day the same blog site carried a follow-up piece by Julie Suk under the heading In the Battle for the ERA, Global Constitutionalism and State Sovereignty.  Read that article HERE.

Then on August 19 the office of Mark Herring, Attorney General for Virginia, issued an announcement that he has moved for summary judgement in the ERA action, asking the court to direct the federal Archivist to publish the ERA as part of the Constitution.  Joining Herring were Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford.

CoSP University Offers Course on the Constitution –
In mid-August the Convention of States Project (CoSP) announced that its CoSP University is offering a free on-line Constitutional Literacy course.  The course is based in part on the earlier-developed 25-part DVD series of the same name by CoSP co-founder Michael Ferris.

The CoSP University offers some 17 courses on the Constitution and related subjects, and claims to have had over 30,000 enrollments.  Click HERE for their announcement.  To get more information about the GOV 100 Constitutional Literacy course one must first register HERE, then go HERE to sign-in for that specific course.

Left-Leaning Group Proposes Term Limits for SCOTUS –
The August 3 edition of The Epoch Times carried an article by Matthew Vadum entitled Democrat Think Tank Embraces Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices. The referenced think tank is The Center for American Progress (CAP), founded by John Podesta.

In releasing the proposal, Maggie Jo Buchanan, CAP’s director of legal progress said, “The idea of term limits for the Supreme Court is gaining momentum and continues to enjoy support by a variety of progressive— as well as conservative— legal experts.”

Although the US Constitution does not explicitly say Supreme Court Justices serve for life, Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution has always been interpreted to provide for such tenure.  Thus, a limit on Judicial terms would probably require a constitutional amendment.

The announcement made no mention of seeking a Congressionally-proposed amendment or using an Article V convention of states to propose the constitutional change that could lead to the imposition of SCOTUS term limits.  Instead, Ms. Buchanan repeatedly references SCOTUS term lengths as “rules.”  She says, “The rules governing the US Supreme Court must be updated to reflect the reality of life in modern America. The average tenure of a Supreme Court justice has significantly lengthened since the establishment of the federal judiciary in the 1700s, giving outsize power to nine individuals in a way the framers of the Constitution could never have imagined.”  Then she said, “This state of affairs is untenable; policymakers must address it by enacting legislation to create term limits for justices.”  Read the Epoch Times article HERE.

An Alternative View of Needed Federal Governance Reforms –
On August 16 a web site known as Outside the Beltway carried a story that effectively reflects one Democrat’s wish list of federal governance reforms.  The article, by Steven L. Taylor, is headlined Reforms: the Possible, the Improbable, and the Unpossible.

The article begins with a short list of changes the writer believes could be enacted legislatively, IF Democratic majorities are elected to both chambers of Congress and the filibuster rule is eliminated.  The second set of wished-for proposals is listed as “Reforms outside of Congress.”  The writer admits that the third group of wished-for reforms would require constitutional amendments… a group of reforms he labels as “Improbable reforms.”

At the very least this article gives a good insight as to how folks-of-a-different-persuasion look at the notion of governance reform.  Read the Taylor piece HERE.

Good Related Reads – 
Red States, Blue States, and Zombie States published on August 1 in American Thinker was written by economists Barry Poulson and John Merrifield.  In the article they say “Over the past two decades, most states have experienced debt fatigue, allowing debt to increase to levels that exposes them to default. When the ratio of debt to personal income exceeds 10 percent, states risk default on their debt.”

What they identify as Red States are states that have not experienced debt fatigue, “states [that] consistently pursue prudent fiscal policies designed to maintain sustainable debt levels.”  They designate Blue States as “states that have experienced debt fatigue, failing to pursue the prudent fiscal policies required for sustainable debt levels.”

“Zombie states,” they say, “are states where debt fatigue set in many years ago. These states have consistently [pursued] imprudent fiscal policies, resulting in unsustainable debt levels. In states such as Illinois and Connecticut, the debt/personal income ratio has been above the debt tolerance level for two decades and is projected to continue to increase over the forecast period.”

On August 26 American Thinker published a second piece by Dr. Poulson, this time entitled Is It Time for Americans to adopt the Swiss debt brake?  This Must Read article is aimed at both state and federal leaders.

Poulson reports that [t]he Swiss debt brake has been the model for more effective fiscal rules, adopted by European nations and the European Union.”  He says [t]he Swiss debt brake … assures a balanced budget over the long term…”  He suggests [t]he United States is now behind the learning curve in enacting more effective fiscal rules to address the debt crisis.”

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On August 27 an op-ed written by Ross Marchand entitled Time for a bipartisan convention to cut spending was published in the newsletter of a group called The Center Square.  Launched in May 2019, this group focuses its work on state- and local-level government and economic reporting.  The group’s website says, “A taxpayer sensibility distinguishes our work from other coverage of state and local issues.  As a result of this approach, our readers are better informed about the focus of state and local government and its cost to the citizens whose tax dollars fund governmental decisions.”

Marchand reflects on the just completed national conventions of the Democrats and Republicans.  He says “what Republican and Democratic speakers didn’t mention is that policies agreed on by both parties have contributed to a jaw-dropping and record-setting $4 trillion deficit.  Unless the two parties team up to get a grip on wasteful spending, taxpayers will have to mortgage their futures to Capitol Hill due to years of overspending.  It’s time for the parties to get together to address runaway spending, rather than blaming one another for the nation’s woes.”

He suggests “Until both parties get together and hold a convention on spending reform, taxpayers will fall deeper into debt and despair.”  It is a very good read, and the free newsletter is worth subscribing to.

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US Manufacturing Soars to 15-Month High by Tom Ozimek in the August 3 Epoch Times provides some much needed good news about the US economy.  It provides documented evidence that Manufacturing in the US, as measured by a key business activity gauge, surged to a 15-month high in July.

Who Said It?

“You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means,
but for only a limited period of time.
Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation,
we’re not bound by that same limitation?
We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow.”

AND

“All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not
create the States; the States created the Federal Government.”

President Ronald Reagan
January 20, 1981 in his Inaugural Address

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