States ought to step up and mandate a balanced federal budget: the National Debt Relief Amendment

Most informed observers would agree that America has reached a fiscal tipping point, where our spending, debts, and promised entitlements threaten national insolvency and our very way of life. The government currently spends over $1.40 for every tax dollar it collects and our national debt, plus interest paid since 1988, equals $200,000 per taxpayer. And even with a huge decline in the value of the dollar, the Federal Reserve runs the inflationary printing presses night and day, to further infuse government coffers.

While Obama attempts to raise the nation’s debt ceiling for the fifth time since taking office, Senate majority leader Harry Reid passionately argues that government must continue to fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Planned Parenthood, and cowboy poetry festivals. Federal officials refuse to heed Thomas Jefferson warning “To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.”

Congress is addicted to money and power. Its illness is perpetuated by the continued creation of government programs that require huge spending. These handouts, freely given by our welfare nanny-state, are nothing more than opiates used to pacify and delight their minions. And since the 1960s, Washington has learned that it is far easier to add debt than it is to increase taxes. Irresponsible politicians have bet the house that their Ponzi scheme will not collapse while they are still in office.

Unlike other national charters, our eighteenth-century Framers provided a means for amending our Constitution, in order to address changing circumstances and national problems. Article V provides both Congress and two-thirds of the states (through a convention) with the exact same authority: to “propose” new amendments.
[poll id=”3″] James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Dickinson and other Founders encouraged the states to use this important Constitutional authority as a check against a misguided or abusive central government. However, in over 200 years the states have never fully exercised their Article V authority to propose amendments, not even during times of national peril or as federalism came under repeated attack.

Unfortunately, groups like Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, the John Birch Society, and others have perpetuated a 1960s falsehood: that a states’ convention for proposing an amendment would somehow spiral out of control, culminating into the very destruction of our Constitution, and the Republic that we love. They appear to believe that state legislators are not reliable, and that only Congress can be entrusted to place meaningful restraints and reforms “upon itself.”

This fear mongering has no basis in fact. A convention is nothing more than a drafting body, which has successfully allowed democratic formation of our colonies, states, and national government. To actively constrain the states from using their convention authority for a needed federal remedy is like refusing to bailout a sinking rowboat to save yourself, for fear of unfounded consequences.

The states must ignore these detractors, look beyond their borders, and demonstrate national courage by exercising their Constitutional authority to propose and then ratify an amendment that ends Washington’s reckless fiscal practices. If the states are not willing to enact restraints upon our irresponsible federal government, then our Republic has little hope of celebrating another centennial.

Editor’s note: The House concurrent resolution in support of the National Debt Relief Amendment (HCR 87) is set to be heard by the House Committee on Governmental Affairs at 9am on Tuesday, May 24. Louisiana would be the second state, after North Dakota, to pass this resolution.

If you would like to express your support or opposition to this initiative, here are the contact details for the committee members, and here are the staff details.

Robert J. Thorpe is author of Reclaim Liberty: 3-Step Plan for Restoring our Constitutional