Federal Fiscal Impotence and a State-Led Solution
By Fergus Hodgson
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United States voters overwhelmingly
support a constitutional constraint on the federal government's spending.
The sentiment is so bipartisan that 49
of the 50 states even have their own forms of balanced budget amendments.
Yet, federal officials face no
such check and continue to spend beyond their means to a ludicrous degree. The
official debt of almost $16
trillion equates to more than $50,000 for every single person in the United
States. A more accurate gauge, which includes unfunded liabilities such as
Medicare and Social Security benefits, places the total at over
The debt ceiling, which
Congress has raised more
than 70 times since the 1960s, is a joke. Someone going to the bank and unilaterally
raising his own credit limit, without any hope of repayment, does not equate to
As I've noted
before, politicians face perverse incentives to buy off voter blocks on the
backs of future generations. So federal congressmen are not going to restrain
themselves; restraint will have to come from a competing group.
While many states allow for
citizen-led constitutional amendments, the United States at the federal level
does not. There are two different
methods that can be used to amend the US Constitution. The first, outlined in Article V, allows
for the process to be initiated by a two-thirds majority in Congress. The wording of any
subsequent amendment then needs ratification by three-quarters of the state
The second method -- through an
amendments convention initiated by two thirds of the state legislatures -- has yet to be utilized since
original ratification of the Constitution. However, the time for action in this
realm has more than arrived. Fortunately, prominent policy institutes and
advocacy groups such as the Goldwater
Institute and the American
Legislative Exchange Council are putting their weight behind a
While working with the Pelican
Institute in Louisiana, I also edited and published an
array of research and commentary
on the matter. The National Debt Relief Amendment resolution also achieved
passage there during the 2011 legislative session, following earlier passage in North Dakota.
- For skeptics open to persuasion on the prospect
of an amendments convention, please consider my column on the matter: "A Historic Fiscal Solution, If We Overcome Convention Fears."
- For the converted
who would like to learn the mechanics of the amendments convention process,
please read ALEC's handbook, Proposing
Constitutional Amendments, By a Convention of the States.
- If you're
considering which of the proposed amendments to put your weight behind, do look
into the one I believe most likely to have an impact, the National
Debt Relief Amendment. (The
promoter, RestoringFreedom.Org, has yet to find a prime sponsor in North
Carolina.) The NDRA's strength is its simplicity, and it reads:
"An increase in
the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the legislatures of the
- The poor performance of the state treasurer, Janet
Cowell, has drawn
my attention recently. And tonight at 5, 5:30, 6, and 11pm, ABC 11 Eyewitness News will
be broadcasting an expose on the state's pension fund, worth more than $70
billion. I'll look to share the clip next week, for those unable to catch
- My most
recent newsletter discussed migration as a form of revealed preference,
and then last week many
media outlets reported the trend toward a return to Mexico of many
immigrants, legal and illegal. All I can say is, "Actions speak louder
- At the John Locke Foundation's recent candidate
briefing, I gave the fiscal presentation. Click here
to watch the video (10 minutes).
Click here for the Fiscal
Monday, Apr. 30th, 2012 at 12:00 PM, Noon
A meeting of the Shaftesbury Society
with our special guest John L. Rustin
"North Carolina - The Quintessential Battleground State"
Thursday, May. 3rd, 2012 at 5:30 p.m.
A Panel Discussion on North Carolina's Marriage Amendment
with our special guests Dr. Michael Munger, Chair, Department of Political Science, Duke UniversityKatharine Parker, Legal Director, ACLU of North CarolinaTammy Fitzgerald, Executive Director, NC Values CoalitionKen Klukowski, Director, Center for Religious Liberty,
North Carolina's Proposed Marriage Amendment
Monday, May. 7th, 2012 at 12:00 PM, Noon
A meeting of the Shaftesbury Society
with our special guest Warren Bingham
George Washington's Southern Tour of 1791
Tuesday, May. 15th, 2012 at Midnight
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