Constitutional Convention for Balanced Budget Amendment – A Bad Idea!

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Recently, there have been calls amongst Republican lawmakers to stage another Constitutional Convention in an attempt to pass a balanced-budget amendment. The proposed amendment would require Congress to eliminate the federal deficit and preserve a balanced budget. There hasn’t been such a meeting in over 200 years.

As Fox News reports:

Momentum is building behind what would be an unprecedented effort to amend the U.S. Constitution, through a little-known provision that gives states rather than Congress the power to initiate changes.

At issue is what’s known as a “constitutional convention,” a scenario tucked into Article V of the U.S. Constitution. At its core, Article V provides two ways for amendments to be proposed. The first – which has been used for all 27 amendment to date – requires two-thirds of both the House and Senate to approve a resolution, before sending it to the states for ratification. The Founding Fathers, though, devised an alternative way which says if two-thirds of state legislatures demand a meeting, Congress “shall call a convention for proposing amendments.”

The idea has gained popularity among constitutional scholars in recent years — but got a big boost last week when Michigan lawmakers endorsed it.

Michigan matters, because by some counts it was the 34th state to do so. That makes two-thirds.

In the wake of the vote, California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter pressed House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday to determine whether the states just crossed the threshold for this kind of convention. Like Michigan lawmakers, Hunter’s interest in the matter stems from a desire to push a balanced-budget amendment — something that could potentially be done at a constitutional convention.

For years, there have been grumblings amongst conservative circles for a Constitutional Convention. These grumblings have grown ever louder as the federal deficit has grown relentlessly larger. “If we can stage a convention,” say mainstream conservatives, “Then we can finally propose a balanced-budget amendment, and the general public will back it.” At least, I assume they believe the general public will back it, because nothing is going to be passed without some level of majority support.

There hasn’t been a significant attempt to balance the budget in over three decades. The real leap off the budgetary wagon took place during the administration of “Mr. Conservative” himself, Ronald Reagan. His administration ran the largest peacetime deficits in history, up to that point. At the time, no mainstream conservatives took him to task for it. To this day, Reagan is still idolized within conservative circles in spite of his downright liberal spending habits. Conservatives who have let this slide do not have any credibility to demand a reduced deficit. Mainstream Democrats and Republicans are now the same in this regard: they don’t care about deficits.

Here’s the bottom line: A balanced budget amendment would severely curtail the power of the federal government. Mainstream Democrats and Republicans, the sects with the real power in Washington, want nothing of the sort. The two mainstream parties are vying against each other for the chance of gaining temporary control over the vast powers of the federal government. Neither party wants those powers to go away. They just want them in their own hands. if only for a little while.

Personally, I do not think the States will actually get enough convention requests to make it happen. Supposedly, they’re at the mark, but I don’t buy it quite yet. The States are totally on the hook for federally subsidized goodies. The Federal Government does not want a balanced budget amendment. Therefore, I foresee the Feds threatening to take away federal subsidies to certain troublemaking states unless they back off. I foresee those states dutifully complying. Furthermore, such an amendment would likely end most, if not all, of those subsidies anyway. They don’t want to lose the subsidies. I don’t think they’re willing to cut the cord, in this respect.

The most ludicrous idea of all is that the general public might back a balanced budget amendment. I don’t doubt that a large number of Americans philosophically support a balanced federal budget. But what if the amendment actually passed? Social Security and Medicare are largely funded through deficit spending and increases in the federal debt limits. These programs are sacred to a vast majority of Americans, in particular to the elderly. How will they be paid for without deficit spending? Raising taxes? They’ll have to go to unbelievable levels. Not even steep taxes on the rich will save them; we’re talking massive wealth extraction from all income brackets. What about printing money? Inflation would go through the roof. Maybe even to hyperinflation. Such a scenario would devastate the lives of millions. Let us hope that doesn’t happen, either.

I do not support a Constitutional Convention. Quite frankly, I think it’s a dangerous idea. I don’t think a balanced budget amendment would actually be passed, and I think it would become a “runaway” convention. That is, other truly crappy amendments would be introduced, and potentially passed. Barack Obama and his administration are totally incompetent, but they’ve proven one thing: they’re damn good organizers. Obama’s soft-paramilitary unit, Organizing for Action, would totally hijack the convention with massive protests in favor of gun control, environmental legislation, thieving income-equality bills, wealth seizure schemes…  liberal populism at it’s finest. People would be bussed in from all over the country. Obama Commandos would lead crowds in refrains of “We Shall Not Be Moved”. The Mainstream Media would toady to the Left and give huge fanfare to their proposed amendments. Before long, I have no doubt that we’d have at least one new and terrible amendment forced on us. The whole thing would totally backfire on it’s conservative origins.

Another good reason to be wary of a Constitutional Convention is the complete lack of precedence. There hasn’t been a Constitutional Convention for over 200 years. There has only been one other Constitutional Convention, and it was a dog-and-pony show. It was under the complete control of a small minority group that wanted the infant U.S.A. to become a new incarnation of the British Empire. This group hijacked the convention, threw out the old constitution, and re-established the federal government as a far more centralized monolith. They foisted the first Central Bank upon the populace – the Bank of the United States – which was later thrown out by Andrew Jackson, but re-established under Woodrow Wilson as the Federal Reserve. Who’s to say that a new convention would not produce similar results?

Nobody really has any clue how such a convention would work. There are no clear instructions, and no clear precedents. This sounds dangerous to me. This sounds like a great opportunity for powerful special interests to set up a totally rigged convention run by yes-men. Whoever controls the gavel, controls the convention. I do not have a single ounce of faith that some type of trustworthy figure would hold the gavel. Even then, what constitutes trustworthy? Trustworthy to whom? I think the rules would be written with specific outcomes already in mind.

The American Public, in general, does not understand economics. Many American politicians do not understand economics either. All both groups know is this: the public loves free goodies, and politicians love buying votes with goodies obtained through federal deficits. They’re not going to let a Constitutional Convention stop that. This is not going to change anytime soon. A Constitutional Convention is just an opportunity for things to get worse.

 

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