June 2019 Newsletter

This Month…
  • Who is Responsible for Toothless Federalism?
  • This Presidential Candidate Once Said He Supported a BBA
  • Heritage Releases its Extensive ‘Blueprint for Balance’
  • This Plan Proposes to Balance the Federal Budget in 6 Years
  • Brookings Writer:  Myths About Fed Debt Leave No Answer
  • Blue Dogs are Gaining Influence While Supporting a BBA
  • US Rep. Schiff Offers Proposed Constitutional Amendment
  • Article V Opposition Campaigns Rely on Disinformation
  • Fake Article V Web Site Surfaces
  • Economist Chides Colorado for Weakening Its TABOR Law
  • Natelson Offers Insight on What Is a Constitutional Crisis

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Who is Responsible for Toothless Federalism? –
In a May 5 posting, 71Republic carried an opinion piece entitled “Give the States Some Teeth”.  The writer laments about the US “today the traditions of federalism are little more than theory.  The federal government has expanded at an extraordinary rate, affecting nearly every part of our lives.”

At one point the writer says “the onus of maintaining this perfect state of federalism is on the federal government alone.”  Then later the writer says “We cannot look to the federal government to correct this.”  He/she suggests the answer lays in a series of needed constitutional amendments, including an amendment to Article V “that reforms the amendment process [to] give states more oversight of the federal government.”

A growing number of American citizens are saying the country needs “A mid-course correction… to avoid having our American republic experience a slow but certain death.” And for that, states must take the lead.  Read the article HERE.

One person who would challenge the notion that “traditions of federalism are little more than theory” (although he might agree that federalism is currently near-toothless) is Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory.  He is an active member of the Federalism Task Force for ALEC, and chair of the ALEC Center to Restore the Balance of Government.

Ivory has published his own book on the importance of federalism called “Where’s the Line? How States Protect the Constitution”.  The 97-page book can be obtained FREE HERE.  Simply enter your email address and your first name.  By doing that an email will be triggered that will include a free download link.

Rep. Ivory’s most recent article on federalism “Federalism Is a Tug of War and States Need to Pull” can be read HERE.

This Presidential Candidate Once Said He Supported a BBA  –
Back in 1995 when he was a US Senator, Joe Biden made an impassioned speech on the floor of the Senate asking fellow political leaders to join him in supporting an amendment to the US Constitution that would require the federal government to operate under a balanced budget.

Writing for PasteMagazine on May 20, Walter Bragman reported on Biden’s January 1995 floor speech when he was two dozen years younger.  At that time Biden chided liberals in his own party over their reluctance to cut federal spending on a variety of entitlement programs.

When Biden spoke in 1995 the US House had already formally endorsed a proposed BBA bill (known as HJ Res 1) by a vote of 300 to 132, well above the required 2/3 vote for proposing a constitutional amendment.  The bill was called “The Fiscal Responsibility Act,” and had its origins in the GOP’s “Contract with America” written by US Representatives Newt Gingrich and Dick Army.

The Senate was in a hot debate about the measure, and was considering a variety of modifications to the proposed constitutional amendment.  Ultimately the bill failed by being one vote short of the necessary 2/3 Senate approval.  The “NO” votes came from Republican Mark Hatfield (OR) and all 34 Democrats.  That means even the seemingly supportive Biden voted against it.

With one more Senate vote that proposal would have gone to the states to be considered for ratification.  Wording in the proposal was not as robust as today’s BBA advocates would prefer, but it could have been a large step forward in restraining the grossly excessive spending that has since led the US to more than $22 trillion in debt.

In 1995 Biden used many of the same talking points that today’s BBA advocates use.  According to Bragman “To Biden, the amendment, while certainly not perfect, was still desirable to no amendment at all, given how much the U.S. was projected to spend on interest payments on the national debt.”  During Biden’s speech, with his trademark staccato emphasis he asked what had happened “to that old conservative discipline of paying for what you spend?”

Biden’s 52½ minute speech can be watched and heard HERE, starting at the 2 hour, 18½  minute mark.  Biden’s current views on a balanced budget amendment are unknown.  But his 1995 vote overshadowed his Senate floor rhetoric.

Heritage Releases its Extensive ‘Blueprint for Balance’ –
During May the Heritage Foundation released its “Blueprint for Balance” that details plans offering “250 specific, actionable proposals to rein in spending, reform taxes, and right-size the federal government.”

Justin Bogie, a senior policy analyst in Heritage’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget says “Following the status quo has led America deeper into debt and closer to the brink of a budget disaster.”  The document says that if implemented, in total, the Heritage’s “Blueprint” would reduce spending by $10.8 trillion over 10 years and eliminate deficits by 2029.  It claims to do this while also permanently extending the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, reducing taxes by $800 billion.

A commentary on the “Blueprint”, written by Heritage President Kay Coles James was published on May 20 in Heritage’s The Daily Caller under the heading The Path to Putting Government in Its Proper Place.   Read her article HERE.

Ms. James says “Despite promises to the contrary … Congress continues to pass bills that spend more than the government takes in each year, adding trillions of dollars of debt and putting our entire economy in peril.  This constant financial mismanagement is bankrupting the country and robbing future generations of Americans to pay for it.”

She describes the “Blueprint” as a demonstration “to the American people and our elected leaders an approach to the federal budget that reins in out-of-control spending, ensures that the government is funding its constitutionally mandated duties, and provides an environment where our prosperity as individuals and as a country grows.”

The “Blueprint” is actually a 300+-page book that can be downloaded HERE.

This Plan Proposes to Balance the Federal Budget in 6 Years –
Earlier in May, Justin Bogie (referenced above) wrote about “Preserving American Freedom,” a comprehensive fiscal 2020 budget proposal produced by the Republican Study Committee.  He says the proposal “would rein in Washington’s spending addiction by prioritizing core constitutional functions.”

Bogie says the proposal “would balance the budget in six years and start paying down the national debt.”  Read Bogie’s review of this proposal, in The Daily Caller, HERE.

Brookings Writer:  Myths About Federal Debt Leave No Answer –
In late April the Washington Post published a piece by Brookings Institute senior fellow William Gale entitled “Five myths about federal debt”.  Mr. Gale notes that recently the US budget deficit has experienced a nearly 40% growth, comparing year-over-year.

He reports that the “Federal debt — the accumulation of past deficits — reached its highest level ever relative to the economy, with the exception of a few years around World War II.  And that’s before financial shortfalls for Social Security and Medicare occur and send debt to unprecedented levels.” 

Mr. Gale warns about five myths that he believes are “muddling the discussion” about the problem.  He identifies what he believes are myths, identifies prominent proponents of the myths, and then debunks them.  His list:
MYTH #1: Debt is harmless if it’s issued in a nation’s own currency.
MYTH #2: Low interest rates mean debt doesn’t matter.
MYTH #3: We should balance the budget and pay off the debt.
(Editor’s Note: The writer’s logic here is certainly fodder for a challenge.)
MYTH #4: We can grow our way out of the debt.
MYTH #5: There’s an easy solution to the debt.

The sad conclusion from Mr. Gale’s list of myths (if his logic is correct) is that there is no hope for finding a way out of America’s fiscal madness.  The editors of this newsletter believe there is a way… and it is found in some variation of the opposite of his conclusions under his Myths #3 and #4.  Read his piece HERE.

Blue Dogs are Gaining Influence While Supporting a BBA –
During May, Politico carried a profile of US Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) who co-chairs the Blue Dog Coalition, an official Democratic caucus.  Once on the verge of extinction, the Blue Dogs have nearly tripled their membership since the 2018 elections.

Murphy is backing a Balanced Budget Amendment bill introduced by Utah Congressman Ben McAdams (D-UT), and preaches the kind of fiscal tightening detested by fellow Democrats in the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Rep. Murphy has earned the nickname “Velvet Hammer”.  Read the Politico article HERE.

US Rep. Schiff Introduces Proposed Constitutional Amendment –
For the past few years various citizen groups across the US have worked under the general banner “Wolf-PAC” in an effort to use Article V to bring about a “Fair and Free Elections” amendment to the US Constitution.  So far five states have adopted resolutions calling for an Article V convention of states to entertain such a proposal.

On May 8 Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that deals with one of the central tenants of the “Fair and Free Elections” movement… an amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision.

Schiff’s proposed amendment would also allow – but not require – “public financing of campaigns when states like Arizona choose to enact such laws.”  He says he believes his proposed amendment would “restore power to the American people.”

Other lawmakers have introduced similar measures this year, but those efforts have failed to gain traction.

Article V Opposition Campaigns Rely on Disinformation –
During May, Rodney Dodsworth released a story on his Article V blog entitled “Strange Bedfellows – Conservative Article V Opponents and the Radical Left”.

The article chronicles how various Article V opposition groups use misinformation and disinformation to hinder use of the powers in the second option within Article V… a convention of states to proposed constitutional amendments.

Dodsworth says the Article V disinformation campaigns “date from the mid-20th century.  Its participants included members of Congress who feared that a convention might propose amendments to limit their power, activist Supreme Court justices seeking to protect themselves from constitutional reversal, and left-of-center academic and popular writers who opposed restraints on federal authority. 

“The campaign succeeded because its publicists enjoyed privileged access to both the academic and the popular media.  The fact that many conservatives swallowed the propaganda enabled liberal activists to recede into the background and rely on conservatives to obstruct reform.”  Read Dodsworth’s article HERE.

Fake Article V Web Site Surfaces – 
“Welcome to Friends of the Article V Convention” is the starting copy on a new… fake… Article V web site.  The site, http://lmjmichelleg52.changeip.com/friends-of-the-article-v-convention-website.html came to light this past month.  It is bogus!

Interestingly the real Friends of Article V Convention site (https://foavc.org/) opens with similar language: “Welcome to Friends of the Article V Convention (FOAVC).  Ours is the oldest non-partisan national organization dedicated to bringing about an Article V Convention.  The constitutional purpose of an Article V Convention is to propose amendments to the Constitution.”  Bill Walker of the real FOAVC reports that he had been unaware of the fake site.

The bogus site appears to carry information and news about Article V and claims to have had 12,799 views.  After some headlines that are seemingly friendly to Article V efforts, it moves on to headlines extolling efforts to rescind Article V applications.  The site is just another anti-Article V disinformation effort.

Economist Chides Colorado for Weakening Its TABOR Law –
The Colorado Springs Gazette recently published a guest column by Economist Barry W. Poulson, one of the drafters of Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (known as TABOR)   Poulson writing about his home state headed his article: “State could go off a fiscal cliff”.

Poulson says “Colorado has created a fiscal cliff; the state is woefully unprepared for the revenue shortfall that will accompany the next recession.  Citizens might be surprised to learn that the state has been pursuing imprudent policies that will result in a fiscal crisis when the next recession hits.  It is important to understand how the fiscal cliff was created and what we can do about it.

“Over the past two decades, Colorado has weakened the fiscal constraints imposed by the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights.  TABOR limits the rate of growth in state spending to the sum of inflation plus population growth, regardless of the amount of revenue the state takes in.”

Poulson goes on to say “Critics of TABOR argue that the Legislature should control taxes and spending.  But changes in TABOR over the years have weakened the power of the Legislature as well as citizens to control the growth of government.”  Read his column HERE.

Natelson Offers Insight on What Is a Constitutional Crisis –
On May 17 Constitutional Scholar Rob Natelson posted an on-line opinion piece entitled “Are we in a constitutional crisis? Yes, but it’s not what you think”.

Natelson suggests that “Mere battles among branches of government or between the federal government and the states are not constitutional crises, despite ignorant assertions by some in politics and the media.”

“On the other hand,” he says, “one kind of situation [is] certainly in the category of [a] ‘constitutional crisis’.  This is when (1) a constitution is still nominally in effect, but (2) political actors persistently disregard all or part of it, and (3) they get away with doing so over a significant period of time.”  He offers examples of this type of constitutional crisis.

“In that case there is a divergence between what is supposed to be ‘the supreme Law of the Land’ and what is actually happening.  If the divergence is corrected, the crisis is over because the rules again prevail.  If it is not corrected, the crisis ends because the constitutional system has vanished.”  Read his thoughtful piece HERE.

Who Said It?

“Each State, in ratifying the Constitution,
is considered as a sovereign body,
independent of all others,
and only to be bound by its own voluntary act.

In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established,
be 
a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution.”
James Madison, Federalist No. 39, 1788
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