Are Governors Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Jan Brewer, John Kasich, Rick Perry, Rick Snyder, Nikki Haley and others conspiring to hijack our Constitution on July 4th, 2013? The conservative think-tank, Goldwater Institute, is moving lobbyists into position to mobilize legislatures throughout our nation with a Compact for America devised by their lead attorney Nick Dranias.
The Compact for America has set a timetable to convene a single issue constitutional convention this summer using Article V of the US Constitution to railroad the revised Balanced Budget Amendment in to the Constitution.
Article V of the Constitution allows states to assemble and propose amendments. It takes 34 states to request an Article V convention. The proposals that pass are then sent through Congress for a majority support. Then the amendment or amendments are sent out to the states for ratification. If 38 states agree, the amendment becomes part of the Constitution.
The Compact for America guarantees that the process will exclude the input of the other states and restricts the delegates to the Balanced Budget Amendment discussion under threat of pre-written instructions to state Attorney Generals.
The Compact for America defines that the states will choose the governor of that state as the only delegate to the convention. The number of red states gives the Goldwater Institute a much easier path to victory. There is no election or presidential action that will stop this effort. The campaign relies on the cooperation of state legislatures and governors, not popular support. Popular opposition will have little effect as well. There is no way to stop the governors and other delegates from passing the amendment. The Compact for America makes sure they collectively use their power to impose their will on the Constitution without debate of any other issue or consideration of any language changes in the amendment itself. It is all rigged in advance.
Now let us assume all that the money backing this effort and the design are successful. Imagine each of those governors standing before the nation’s first Article V convention telling us how they are doing this to us for our own good and saving us from what they will consider the worst burden on society, an unbalanced budget. We will hear how Jan Brewer thinks the federal budget is a higher priority than medicare, or how proud Scott Walker is to save freedom by balancing the budget, and on and on for 24 hours. Each governor will want their share of the historical spotlight in a tangible exercise of “tyranny of the majority”.
Meanwhile, there is a very large crowd gathering outside the Dallas convention center screaming for their chance to debate other amendments. Rick Scott shames the freeloaders who drain our budget with their health care and encourages people to seek out companies like his HMO. The chair then recognizes a Democrat Governor Delegate from the state of Missouri. He tries to introduce an amendment to deal with Citizens United and take money out of politics, but before he can finish his motion he is swiftly arrested by the Attorney General of Missouri and removed from the convention for introducing another amendment. Emotions are charged inside and outside the convention center.
At what point does the obvious removal of democratic process from the constitutional convention become so outrageous that the people react? This seems to be a scenario which could be the last straw. We could be teetering at the brink of civil revolt.
As one Scott Walker recall supporter in Wisconsin stated after the results were announced, “Democracy died here today.” The irony is that these governors who oppose collective bargaining will end up conspiring to strong arm our Constitution. The outrageous authoritarian actions taken in each state in recent years to pass a right wing agenda are about to happen at the federal level. Democrats are not prepared for this. There is no ground game that can match what the Goldwater Institute has put together with the Compact for America. If Congress tries to deny a convention with 38 states demanding it, that would also be grounds for revolution.
If this does not seem fair, consider that the U.S. Constitution belongs to the people, not the Government. It is written in plain English, not legalese. This group of people wishes to fundamentally change how our government functions with a democratic process that has been exorcised of democratic input. You are the risk they have eliminated. The Compact for America perverts the sanctity of the Convention Clause in the Constitution by restricting the convention to the abomination of an amendment they have agreed to pass in advance.
George Washington explains, “The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, ’til changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People is sacredly obligatory upon all.”
The method of a convention to propose amendments is great and we should use it to debate many amendments, but there needs to be open and free debate. As a progressive, our worse convention nightmare is that the right wingers will come in and hijack the convention for their own goals. The Compact for America guarantees that our worst nightmare comes true. What are we going to do about it?
THE BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT from Compact for America:
Section 1. Balanced Budget Requirement. Total outlays of the government of the United States shall not exceed total receipts of the government of the United States at any point in time unless the excess of outlays over receipts is financed by public debt issued in strict conformity with this article.
Section 2. Debt Limit. Outstanding public debt shall not exceed authorized public debt, which initially shall be an amount equal to 105 percent of the outstanding public debt on the effective date of this article. Authorized public debt may be reduced and thereafter increased up to its aforesaid initial amount as provided by law; however, authorized public debt shall not be increased above its aforesaid initial amount unless such increase is first approved by the legislatures of the several states as provided in Section 3.
Section 3. State Approval Requirement. From time to time, Congress may increase authorized public debt to an amount in excess of its initial amount set by Section 2 only if it first publicly refers to the legislatures of the several states an unconditional, single subject measure proposing the amount of such increase, in such form as provided by law, and the measure is thereafter publicly and unconditionally approved by a simple majority of the legislatures of the several states, in such form as provided respectively by state law; provided that no inducement requiring an expenditure or tax levy shall be demanded, offered or accepted as a quid pro quo for such approval. If such approval is not obtained within sixty (60) calendar days after referral then the measure shall be deemed disapproved and the authorized public debt shall thereby remain unchanged.
Section 4. Required Impoundment. Whenever the outstanding public debt exceeds 98 percent of the debt limit set by Section 2, and if appropriated expenditures will likely necessitate borrowing in excess of said limit, the President shall enforce said limit by publicly designating specific expenditures for impoundment in an amount sufficient to ensure outstanding public debt shall not exceed the authorized public debt. Said impoundment shall become effective thirty (30) days thereafter, unless Congress first designates an alternate impoundment of the same amount by concurrent resolution, which shall become immediately effective. The failure of the President to designate or enforce the required impoundment is an impeachable misdemeanor.
Section 5. Fair Share Tax. No bill that provides for a new or increased general revenue tax shall become law unless approved by a two-thirds roll call vote of the whole number of each House of Congress. However, this requirement shall not apply to any bill that provides for a new end user sales tax which would completely replace every existing income tax levied by the government of the United States; or for the reduction or elimination of an exemption, deduction, or credit allowed under an existing general revenue tax.
Section 6. Definitions. For purposes of this article, “public debt” means any obligation backed by the full faith and credit of the government of the United States; “outstanding public debt” means all public debt held in government accounts or by the public at any single point in time; “authorized public debt” means the total amount of public debt that may be lawfully issued and outstanding at any single point in time under this article; “total outlays of the government of the United States” means all expenditures of the government of the United States from any source; “total receipts of the government of the United States” means all tax receipts and other income of the government of the United States, excluding proceeds from its issuance or incurrence of any type of debt or liability; and “general revenue tax” means any income tax, sales tax, or value-added tax levied by the government of the United States.
Section 7. Self-enforcement. This article is immediately operative upon ratification, self-enforcing, and Congress may enact conforming legislation to facilitate enforcement.