By Herman Cain – March 30, 2015 | Comments| Print friendly |
If you’re frustrated by the refusal of Congress to stop its fiscal insanity – and how could you not be? – it’s time to start realizing that the Constitution gives states and the people more power over Congress than most realize. And right now there is an effort called the Article V Initiative that would wield and deploy that power.
Most people don’t know, because they have never been taught, that Article V of the Constitution empowers the people through their state legislatures to propose amendments. Specifically, Article V proscribes a process in which two-thirds of state legislatures (34 total) can vote to direct Congress to call a meeting of the states for the purpose of proposing amendments.
(Editor’s note added March 30, 2015: Yesterday, North Dakota became the 27th state to call for the constitutional convention.)
This is not a constitutional convention, which would be for the purpose of writing an entirely new Constitution. It is solely for the purpose of voting to enact amendments. Once such a meeting of the states is called (and Congress cannot refuse if two-thirds of the states call for it), then any amendment would require a vote of three-fourths (38 total) of state legislatures for ratification.
I spoke this past weekend to the people leading the Article V initiative. They are determined to work with state legislatures to bring on board the 34 states that would call for this meeting of the states.
One of the most positive things about this opportunity is that every state gets an equal vote. So if red states like Wyoming and Utah sign on, the value of their votes doesn’t get obliterated by gigantic blue states like California or New York. Then again, if gigantic blue states are wise they will get on board. If Congress continues to pile up an ever-more crushing debt burden, those bigger states are going to shoulder a bigger share of the burden than the smaller states.
If 34 states can be brought on board to call for this gathering, then 38 states can pass any amendment to the Constitution, and there will be nothing Congress or the president can do about it. And that brings us to the concept of the Balanced Budget Amendment. Since many of the states have balanced budget amendments in their own constitutions, it only makes sense to believe they would see merit to having one in the U.S. Constitution. It’s fine for states to balance their own budgets, but if the federal government mismanages itself into a fiscal collapse, it will be the states who are left to pick up the pieces.
Now you might ask: Can’t we solve this problem just by electing better people. Well, that would certainly help. But a major problem with politicians, even good ones, is that they quickly learn it benefits them to bestow favors on the electorate with other people’s money. The Constitution limits the power of the federal government precisely because the nature of politics incentivizes government to grow. It also needs to limit the power of politicians to borrow and spend because the same kinds of incentives exist for them to do so irresponsibly. Even good people have to live within the limits of the powers enumerated by the Constitution, and that’s as it should be.
By the way, don’t think this is impossible. Twenty-four states have already passed this resolution, including six this year – Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, Louisiana and Georgia. Mississippi passed it in 1975 and there is no expiration date. So we only need 10 more! And in three more states – Wisconsin, Arizona and South Carolina – the measure has passed the state House and is pending in the Senate.
Here is where you can learn more about this effort. We’re going to keep on this and support the effort in any way we can. This nation was founded with the idea that the states could serve as a check on the federal government. These days the people don’t seem to realize that, and the powers-that-be in Washington certainly have little interest in explaining it to them.
But that power is real, and today it needs to be wielded more urgently than ever. The working class needs to make this happen, because the political class would never do it. But the political class also can’t stop it. The Constitution is on our side.
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