January 2018 Newsletter

  • Cuccinelli Gave a Powerful Speech at ALEC Conference
  • Bipartisan Report Authors Underscore Need for Debt Control
  • Heritage Foundation Gets a New President
  • Iowa State Rep Calls for a Convention of States
  • Coburn:  No One is Working on National Debt Reduction
  • New Amendment-Seeking Group Takes Aim at Citizens United
  • Writer Says Tea Party Must Now Focus on Spending Restraint
  • Should Article V Itself be Amended?
  • NewsMax Finally Publishes Brief Acknowledgement of Article V
  • Writer’s Wish: ‘Stop Bankrupting My Children’s Future’
  • US Term Limits Proposal Gains Support Going Into 2018

Cuccinelli Gave Powerful Speech at ALEC Conference –
Former Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was the keynote speaker at a BBA Task Force-sponsored breakfast during the recent ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit in Nashville, TN.  He described his presentation as “unique from any other that (he) gives.”  He said, “I have never given one like it.”  Then he spent 25 minutes underscoring the facts that support a quote from Erskine Bowles… “We face the most predictable economic crisis in history.” 

Cuccinelli’s powerful graphics-supported presentation went on to underscore the truth of Bowles prediction, “if we do not change course.”  He talked about “the consequences of failure”“it’s simple math”…. noting ”We are spending about $1.40 for every $1 we take in,” and, “A one percent increase in interest rates equals $200 billion … which alone would almost double our interest payment per year,” and, “At the end of 2021 about $6 trillion of our $20 trillion debt will come due… in addition to our then existing budget.”  He stressed that “A balanced budget amendment has to come from the states.”

Although the sound quality is not what one would wish, Cuccinelli’s full presentation can be seen HERE.

Bipartisan Report Authors Underscore Need for Debt Control –
About the same time as Cuccinelli’s speech, the Washington Post carried an op-ed authored by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles entitled A moment of truth for our country’s financial future.

They pointed out the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that they co-chaired issued its bipartisan warnings and recommendations seven years ago… when the national debt was $7 trillion smaller.  “Sadly” they said, “deficit denial is not only back but also stronger than ever”… and, “debt is the highest it has ever been other than around World War II.”

While their piece was primarily a critique of the since-passed tax reform bill, they stressed, “Bringing our debt under control will require reforming and slowing the growth of health and retirement entitlements.”  “This is the moment of truth for lawmakers who share our concern about our nation’s fiscal future.”  Read their op-ed HERE.

Heritage Foundation Gets a New President –
The Heritage Foundation has announced that Kay James will become its new President as of this month.  Ms. James brings with her a wealth of experience and leadership background.

From the standpoint of this publication, the only question is whether or not she will lead the widely respected organization to recognize that the Constitution it vigorously supports also includes a tool that can bring about many of the changes Heritage espouses… the state-led option for proposing Constitutional amendments set forth in Article V

Back in 1988, during an earlier effort to convene an Article V convention to propose a BBA-focused Constitutional amendment, Heritage produced a Backgrounder (position paper #637) that concluded, “Given the numerous safeguards built into the convention method of amendment, fears that use of this method would endanger the Constitution are unfounded.  In fact, the convention method actually may be the safer method of amendment.  A convention is subject to many constraints, while Congress may propose an amendment to the states at any time, with almost no limits on the subject matter of those amendments.”

The 1988 position paper goes on to say, “[T]the convention clause of Article V is an integral and necessary part of the constitutional system of checks and balances.  Americans and their representatives in state legislatures and in Congress should not allow misinformation to divert them from employing this wisely crafted provision.  When Congress fails to propose needed amendments to the Constitution, policy makers should not hesitate to put it to use.”

Yet, while Heritage has often supported a balanced budget provision in the Constitution, it has never taken a position supportive of an Article V convention to make that happen.  Leadership of the influential organization has continued to believe that Congress will propose such an amendment to constrain itself.

As recently as August 2011 outgoing Heritage President Edwin Feulner wrote, “Until Congress is required by the Constitution to balance the budget (as almost all states are required to do) there will never be a true budget reform in Washington.”  Unfortunately, under his leadership Heritage has refused to acknowledge, and encourage use of the provisions in Article V to accomplish that end.

Meanwhile, former US Senator Jim DeMint, who also served as President of Heritage for some time, has gone on to invest his leadership skills in promoting the use of Article V through the Convention of States Project (CoSP).  And, Stephen Moore, the Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Project for Economic Growth at Heritage, has realized that Article V holds the hope for the balanced budget Constitutional provision that America needs.

“I was at first not a big fan of a balanced budget amendment,” says Moore, “and I have to confess that I believed the critics who said we just need to show some backbone and courage; we don’t need to mess with the Constitution.  But neither party has shown the courage or backbone to do anything about federal spending and borrowing. They won’t, and the institution is inherently incapable of doing so.”  He is now a strong advocate of using a state-led Article V convention to obtain a balanced budget amendment.

With Ms. James now leading Heritage, it is hoped that organization will finally use its influence to employ the hitherto unused powers of Article V.  Read the entire 1988 Heritage position paper on the validity of using Article V HERE.

See Stephen Moore’s BBA-related testimony before the US Senate Judiciary Committee HERE.

Iowa State Rep Calls for a Convention of States –
In late November the Dickinson County (Iowa) News carried a piece wherein Iowa State Rep John Wills wrote about why there is a swamp in Washington, DC.

After reviewing the issues he concluded, “[W]e need to call for a convention of states that will bring our states together once again in a semblance of federalism to discuss how to reign in an out of control federal system and bring the power back to you —the voter. Remember: the government was meant to be controlled by the people, not the other way around.”
Read Rep. Wills piece HERE.

Coburn:  No One is Working on National Debt Reduction –
During December former Oklahoma US Senator Tom Coburn visited the Tulsa World where he said, “No one is working on the things that are really important.”

Dr. Coburn made it clear that what is really important to this country continues to be debt… not just the more than $20 trillion in accumulated federal operating debt, but also the tens of trillions more in obligations like Social Security and Medicare.

“Name a country that has survived the debt burden we have,” Coburn said. “You can’t. There aren’t any.”

Coburn’s book, Smashing the D.C. Monopoly, is his argument for a convention of the states. It is directed largely at fellow conservatives, many of whom oppose an Article V convention as a potential Pandora’s box.  Coburn describes at great length why he believes this is an unfounded worry, and why he believes a convention is imperative.

Coburn serves as spokesman for and advisor to the Convention of States Project (CoSP).  His interview with the Tulsa World can be read HERE.

New Amendment-Seeking Group Takes Aim at Citizens United –
A group known as American Promise has launched a new campaign to convince Congress to propose a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  It claims to have begun an “18-month-long deliberative project to write and vet the 28th amendment to the US Constitution.”

Over the past few years a group known as Wolf-PAC has been pursuing an Article V convention of states to reach similar goals.  American Promise does not seem to have any interest in the state-led approach to overturning the 8-year-old Citizens United decision.  They appear convinced that they can get 2/3 of both houses of Congress to vote for their proposed amendment.  Their list of supporters includes former US Senator Alan Simpson, US Senator Tom Udall, Congressman Jim McGovern, Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig and others.

The December 4 press release announcing the new campaign can be read HERE.  More information about American Promise is available HERE… and about Wolf-PAC is available HERE.

Writer Says Tea Party Must Now Focus on Spending Restraint –
During December The Libertarian Republic.com published an op-ed by Gary Doan entitled “The Next Evolution of the TEA Party Must Be a SEA Party”.

Doan summarizes the history of the Tea Party movement and says, “[N]early a decade to the day after their emergence, they arguably have their first legislative victory.  Their laser-like focus on taxes has made the first major legislation of Trump’s term to pass both houses tax reform.”  He goes on to say, “[T]he original aim was to simplify the tax code and lower rates overall, and that’s exactly what the bill appears to do.  Such a bill, regardless of any warts, represents the largest step towards what has always unified the TEA Party, and it would not have existed without them.”

Sloan believes the Tea Party now needs to become the “SEA Party,” with an emphasis on reducing governmental spending.  He points out that “debt is merely a tax on future generations” and suggests that “Any cuts to direct taxes without accompanying spending cuts merely raises the tax rates of indirect taxation.”

He says, “To the extent that self-styled tea party politicians are fiscal conservatives, it seems obvious to me that since significant tax reform is accomplished, spending reform must follow. Deficits and debt are not fiscally conservative policies.”

After lauding the potential benefits of a Constitutional balanced budget amendment Sloan concludes by saying, “In the wake of the victory of significant tax reform, this is the next battlefront for fiscal conservatives, the next big ticket item that accomplishes more than nibbling around the edges with some minor tweaks.  For fiscal conservatives to move forward, they need to evolve past the TEA Party and become a SEA Party, or suffer the same fate of stagnation and co-option by a Republican party unconcerned with economics as their predecessors.”

Read Sloan’s entire piece HERE.

Should Article V Itself be Amended? –
James W. Lucas, an attorney in New York City, has written an important, thoughtful Article V-related piece that was published December 8 at National Review.com.  Headlined The Supreme Court verses the Constitution, Lucas starts by saying, “Through judicial amendment, the Supreme Court has made Article V of the Constitution an afterthought.”  Then he asks, “Can we restore the Framers’ vision?”

Lucas says, “[W]e have been hearing much about the two contending approaches to the Constitution.  These are often referred to as ‘originalism’ and ‘living constitutionalism,’ but these terms obscure the underlying issue.  What is at stake, at least in the constitutional context, is how our Constitution should be changed.”  He suggests that Supreme Court decisions often “constitute de facto amendment of the Constitution.”

He asks, “How is it that the oldest written constitution in the world, of one of the oldest democratic republics in the world, can be changed with no participation by the people, through the decree of five unelected and unaccountable judges?”  Then he concludes, “Today Article V is perhaps the most neglected part of our Constitution.”

“If judges are to be persuaded not to change the Constitution on their own,” says Lucas, “Article V must be reformed in order to make it a plausible alternative to judicial amendment.  The Framers’ solution was the democratic, deliberative process set out in Article V, not the fiat of the Supreme Court.”

Mr. Lucas says Article V… itself… should be amended.  “A few simple adjustments could do much to return the ultimate power of constitutional change to the people.”  In his National Review article he writes extensively about why and in what ways Article V should be changed.  He has even written a separate book on the topic: Are We The People, available HERE.

Read Mr. Lucas’ entire National Review article HERE.

NewsMax Finally Publishes Brief Acknowledgement of Article V – During December the conservative NewsMax.com carried a report that there have been 742 proposals to amend the US Constitution since 1999.  The article was written by political analyst/author/speaker Scott Rasmussen.

He reports that the vast majority of those proposals died in Congressional committees.  He says only 20 times over those years was a potential amendment even voted on by the full House or Senate.

After noting that “The requirements to amend the U.S. Constitution are challenging,” Rasmussen offers a cursory (and unfortunately incomplete) reference to the Article V state convention option for proposing amendments.  Read his piece HERE.

Writer’s Wish: ‘Stop Bankrupting My Children’s Future’ –
During December RealClearPolitics.com published a commentary written by Tim Kane of the Hoover Institution.  It dealt mostly with the misleading “Winners and Losers” approach to evaluating federal tax bills.  Kane wrote some weeks before Congress approved its 2017 Tax Cut and Reform Bill.

Mr. Kane addressed the possibility that the national debt might increase by up to $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years as a result of the bill.  He says, “Yes, deficits are a problem.  So is slow growth.  As much as I wish Washington would stop bankrupting my children’s future, I appreciate that tax reform is not where the debt will be fixed.  The spending side of the federal ledger is what threatens us.  Once upon a time, a moral constraint among legislators held spending in check, but it has washed away. Sadly, there is no statutory constraint.”

Kane concluded his op-ed by saying, “To save the future, America needs a balanced budget amendment.”  Read his piece HERE.

US Term Limits Proposal Gains Support Going Into 2018 – 
Vermont State Rep. Robert Helm has announced that he will sponsor the US Term Limits (USTL) resolution in Vermont this next session.  In making his announcement, Rep. Helm said, “It’s important because of what you see in Washington now.  Stalemates, shutdown and prejudice; and I think refreshing Congress every so often will eliminate some of that.”

Meanwhile Tennessee State Senator Mark Green announced that he has signed the Article V Term Limits Convention Pledge, joining a growing number of state lawmakers nationwide who have also made the commitment.  Green’s pledge says, “I pledge that as a member of the state legislature, I will support and vote for the resolution applying for an Article V convention for the limited purpose of proposing term limits on Congress.”

Green, currently running for a seat in the US House, has also signed the USTL pledge to support a Congressionally-introduced Constitutional amendment requiring term limits for Congress.

According to USTL, the most recent nationwide Gallup poll on term limits shows the issue enjoys wide bipartisan support.  The results suggest that 75% of Americans support congressional term limits.  Gallup’s analysis states, “Republicans and Independents are slightly more likely than Democrats to favor term limits; nevertheless, the vast majority of all party groups agree on the issue.  Further, Gallup finds no generational differences in support for the proposal.”

Act 2 Launches New Web Site –
A new web site has been opened to promote The Act 2 Reforms… a Blueprint to Rejuvenate America.  This is a Colorado-based movement that is promoting five Constitutional amendments.  The attractive and detail-packed site explains the national problems Act 2 seeks to address, and offers specific, actionable ideas.

Frank W. Keeney and his wife Carol are the founders of Act 2.  Find and explore their new web site HERE.

Who Said It?
“America is, and will be, divided into several sovereign states,
each possessing every power proper for governing within its own limits
for its own purposes, and also for acting as a member of the union.”
He wrote that any states that allowed the federal government to interfere in their sovereign jurisdiction would be guilty of a breach of trust, for the “trustees or servants of the several states” were obliged to protect the authority citizens had placed in them.  If state officials lose ground to the federal government, Dickinson maintained, “It will be their own faults.”
John Dickinson (writing under the pseudonym, “Fabius”).  In early 1788 Dickinson perceived that momentum to ratify the new Constitution was slowing. He composed 9 letters that were published in newspapers, were well-received, and were widely reprinted.  The above quotes are from those letters.