|Do Constitutional Principles Matter Anymore? – |
In a recent article for suindependent.com (“The Voice for Utah”), syndicated columnist Dr. Harold Pease laments that the American education system… at nearly every level… no longer teaches Constitutional principles.
He notes that “Several years ago, U.S. News and World Report reported a study showing that most Americans could not pass the constitutional questionnaire for citizenship — so constitutionally illiterate are we. This document is only of minimal value to journalism or communication majors as well. But these professions serve as information filters in our newspapers, magazines, or radio or television news programs.”
Pease says “This generation knows that the Constitution was a good thing and probably should be revered, at least historically, but they know little of the principles housed therein and have no idea how to vote to get back to it. This they will never get from the media, political parties, or seemingly not even the institutions of learning — only private study.” Read Dr. Pease’s observations HERE.
A recent Forbes article by former college professor Tom Lindsay says, “For roughly the past fifty years, higher education reformers have been warning about the decline in civic education in this country. National polling consistently shows that Americans, even college graduates, are growing increasingly civically illiterate. A recent survey found that only 36% of respondents can identify the three branches of American government. A mere 27% know that it takes a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto. … Unfortunately, US Department of Education statistics testify that, today, only one in three college students graduates having taken even one course in American Government. Why? Because a growing number of universities no longer require them to do so. Hence, our civic-knowledge deficit.” Read his piece HERE.
In early September, during the Judge Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Nebraska US Senator Ben Sasse delivered a concise presentation on what he called “Schoolhouse Rock Civics”. A 12-minute Youtube recording of the Sasse presentation is available HERE.
On September 11, J. J. McCullough wrote a piece for National Review Online headlined “Why States Still Matter”. The article deals with the Electoral College provision in the Constitution and why it is still important. Read the article HERE.
Constitution Day and the ‘Gift’ of Article V –
September 17 was Constitution Day… the date in 1787 when America’s governing document was signed. In recognition of that special day, The Hill published a piece entitled ”This Constitution Day, states should finally unwrap the gift of Article V”, by Lindsey Stroud of The Heartland Institute.
Ms. Stroud points out that during drafting of the Constitution “the founding fathers often debated the balance of power between the national and state governments”. To address those concerns they included the dual provisions of Article V to give states significant power “that can — and should — be used today”.
She chronicles the efforts to bring about an Article V convention for a balanced budget amendment (BBA). That effort dates back to the 1950s. She points out that “Through the decades, this movement has flourished and fizzled. However, as Congress continues to spend into oblivion, the movement has had a recent resurgence. Currently, 28 states support the BBA.”
She concludes by saying “As Americans celebrate the signing of the Constitution, all policymakers should adhere to the principles of the Constitution. Furthermore, state legislators must hold the federal government accountable — and they can do so through Article V. As the deficit and debt continue to spiral out of control, federal lawmakers’ ambivalence is shocking. Fortunately, the founding fathers anticipated the likelihood of a tyrannical, spend-thrift central government — it is for incumbent state legislators to utilize the power granted to them under Article V to put the nation back on a fiscally sustainable path.” Read Ms. Stroud’s article HERE.
Also on September 17, the Daily Wire (Heritage Foundation) published a piece by attorney Jenna Ellis entitled “This Constitution Day, Celebrate The Power Of The States”.
Ms. Ellis focuses on the new Constitution’s separation of powers… “specific powers … separated among the three branches of the federal government (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial) and among the three layers of federalism (Federal, State, and the People).” She notes that today “The layers of federalism are the most often denied or forgotten in an increasingly overreaching federal government.”
The Ellis article again stresses the importance of the fifth Article in the new Constitution as a way to “propose amendments to the Constitution to redistribute or clarify or foreclose powers”. She describes Article V as “a great legal tool for American government to have a viable mechanism to amend government’s powers without having to rewrite the Constitution or in any way change any other article or prior amendment.” Read her article HERE.
ALEC Statement Calls for Use of Article V –
This past month the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) issued a statement dealing with (a) Americans’ near-universal dissatisfaction with Congress, (b) spiraling federal debt, and (c) the need for state legislatures to use Article V of the US Constitution.
The statement describes Article V as a provision that “provides states with the authority to institute change when Congress fails to act by calling a convention to propose new amendments to the US Constitution”.
Coverage of the ALEC statement was carried at americansecuritynews.com (which reports on policy issues and news related to the national defense of the US). The story reported that “One of the key goals of assembling a convention of [states] should be to enact fiscal restraints on our Federal Government to bring more accountability to the American people. Virtually every state in the entire country requires a balanced budget whether it is through statute or in their constitution. It is not unreasonable to expect the same of our Federal Government and most Americans agree.” Read the fully story HERE.
The Constitution’s Text: ‘authoritative, exclusive, and supreme’ –
“If we don’t stick to the Constitution’s meaning as written, we have no Constitution,” says law professor Michael Stokes Paulsen (University of St. Thomas – Minneapolis) in the October 1 edition of the National Review.
Paulsen stresses “There is only one proper way to faithfully interpret the Constitution. And that is to ascertain the actual meaning of the words of the text, taken in their proper social and linguistic context. That meaning must be the objective meaning — not the reader’s subjective understanding or preferred reading. And that meaning must be the original meaning — that is, the meaning the Constitution’s words and phrases would have had to reasonably informed readers of the English language at the time they were used, in context, and accounting for any specialized usages or term-of-art phrases. Any other reading is pure anachronism, a misuse of language.”
He calls his approach “original-public-meaning textualism.” Others simply call it “Originalism”. Every elected official who swears to support the US Constitution will want to read Paulsen’s take on understanding the document being committed to.
Paulsen says, “The conclusion seems inescapable: The Constitution’s text prescribes fidelity to a single, specific, exclusive, defined, determinate written legal text, designed to serve as permanent, supreme law, the content of which can be changed only by a formal process of changing the text itself.”
The Professor notes that James Madison said that “it would produce a ridiculous ‘metamorphosis’; in the Constitution if ‘the shape and attributes of the government must partake of the changes to which the words and phrases of all living languages are constantly subject’.” Read more about Paulsen’s approach to understanding the Constitution HERE.
Natelson: Supreme Court Will Not Defend Federalism –
In a new paper entitled “New Case Shows the Supreme Court’s Defense of Constitutional Federalism is Only Tepid”, constitutional expert Rob Natelson alleges that the Supreme Court won’t defend federalism as originally intended.
Natelson’s new paper reviews a series of Supreme Court decisions and concludes that even those Justices who are generally considered “conservative” do not appear to stand up for the principles of federalism. He says, “The fact is that under no possible scenario in the foreseeable future will a majority of the Supreme Court re-establish constitutional limits on a runaway Congress. That will have to be done by the people, acting through the Constitution’s Article V amendment process.” Read Natelson’s new paper HERE.
NY Times: Federal Interest Costs to Exceed Military Spending –
According to a September 25 article in The New York Times, “Interest payments on the federal debt could surpass the Defense Department budget in 2023”. The article by Nelson D. Schwartz is entitled, “As Debt Rises, the Government Will Soon Spend More on Interest Than on the Military”.
The author writes that “Within a decade, more than $900 billion in interest payments will be due annually, easily outpacing spending on myriad other programs. Already the fastest-growing major government expense, the cost of interest is on track to hit $390 billion next year, nearly 50 percent more than in 2017, according to the Congressional Budget Office.” Read Schwartz’s article HERE.
Political Candidates Are Signing LetUSVote Pledges –
Several candidates for public office have recently signed the pledge, to “Let Us Vote for a Balanced Budget Amendment.” The pledge drive is being conducted by LetUSVoteforaBBA.org .
The organization is relatively new (organized by former members of the BBA Task Force). The group started by doing some blind polling and found that 80+% of respondents (uniformly between Republicans, Democrats and Independents) believe Congress should promptly call a convention of states to draft a proposed BBA-focused amendment to the Constitution (not Congress), and that the proposed amendment should be submitted to state conventions (like was done for the 21st amendment) for ratification.
In the short time that candidates have been invited to sign the Let Us Vote pledge, the following US Senatorial candidates have signed on: Robert Arlett (Delaware), Lou Barletta (Pennsylvania), Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee), Tony Campbell (Maryland), Matthew Corey (Connecticut), Kevin Cramer (North Dakota), Ron Curtis (Hawaii), Jim Newberger (Minnesota), and Leah Vukmir (Wisconsin).
The following candidates for the US House have also signed the pledge to stand for fiscal responsibility and the citizen’s right to vote for a balanced budget amendment: Joseph Brumbles (Washington), John Culberson (Texas), Douglas Dightman (Washington), Eddie Edwards (New Hampshire), Mark Harris (North Carolina), Gerhard Gressmann (South Carolina), Yvette Herrell (New Mexico), Jeff Jones (Michigan), Steven Kraus (Ohio), Bryan Leib (Pennsylvania), Brian Luke (Washington), Dan Meuser (Pennsylvania), Mike Miller (Florida), Thomas Oh (Virginia), and Don Young (Alaska).
Brooke Paige, candidate for Vermont Secretary of State and seven state legislative candidates have also submitted LetUSVote pledges.
So far 6,662 people have voted in the LetUSVote pole, and the results now show more than 90% of polltakers saying the people should be able to vote for a federal balanced budget amendment… with less than 7% willing to wait for Congress to do so. The group’s on-line voting system is available HERE.
CoSP Gets Major Endorsement, Keeps Moving Forward –
Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and a longtime respected religious leader has announced his support for the Convention of States Project (CoSP) effort that seeks an Article V convention to propose constitutional amendments.
The support statement issued on behalf of Dr. Dobson says, “Unfortunately, an insidious power grab has been underway in our nation’s capital for many years and it has inflicted great damage upon our constitutional republic. Unelected bureaucrats, activist judges, and the ever-expanding scope, reach and invasion of the federal government into the lives of all Americans has far surpassed what our Founders ever intended. Thankfully the drafters of our Constitution built in safeguards to restore the size of government to its proper limits through amendments as outlined in Article V of the U.S. Constitution. … Thirty-four states must call a convention to order and already 12 have passed the petition. A Convention of the States can and should be called.”
In Michigan on September 25 the Michigan Senate Government Operations Committee voted 3-2 in favor of SJR-R, a resolution calling for adoption of the CoSP resolution. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee of the Whole.
In Idaho the CoSP proposal did not get out of legislative committee during the last legislative session, but CoSP leaders remain hopeful the issue will be considered again. During September the Coeur d’ Alene/Post Falls Press reported that CoSP Regional Director Paul Hodson said, “We are extremely positive that this will happen. It’s not a matter of if people will have enough (of federal overreach), but when.” He reported that about 11,000 people have signed a petition in support of the movement.
CoSP, in cooperation with Prager University, has released a new video called “How the States can Save America”. The excellent 5½ minute video can be viewed HERE.
Wolf-PAC Leader Writes to the Article V Caucus –
In response to a story in last month’s edition of this newsletter (about Wolf-PAC leaders calling on Progressives to support an Article V convention), Todd Jagger, Wolf-PAC’s Texas State Director wrote in to stress that the group is seeking “Fair Elections”, not necessarily to “overturn Citizens United”.
He reports that he has been with Wolf-PAC since its inception, and “a newsletter subscriber and supporter of the Article V Caucus for a long time. I really appreciate your common sense and non-partisan approach to the state based route to an amendment, and getting the info out across the country. I’ve encouraged our Texas lawmakers to participate with your organization.”
He points out, “Non-partisanship and mutual support is essential for any Article V efforts to succeed. I’ve known this since the beginning and that’s the culture I’ve worked hard to create in Wolf-PAC Texas. And honestly it’s a bit troubling that some Article V organizations seem to be going in a different direction.”
In describing his group’s efforts as not just “left-wing liberals” Jagger says, “it’s pretty telling [that] the actual left-wing groups like Common Cause and Center for Budget and Policy Priorities are fighting us tooth and nail in our efforts. The status quo doesn’t give up power willingly, and that includes organizations that exist solely to fundraise off ‘fighting’ a problem, instead actually fixing it.” He says, “There are absolutely ways to address the problem of campaign finance reform in an amendment without touching Citizens United.”
During September The Parthenon (student newspaper at Marshal University in Huntington, West Virginia) covered a debate between WolfPAC representatives and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and WV Center on Budget and Policy on ways to take money out of politics. That story can be read HERE.
Caucus Website: A Handy Source of Accurate Article V Info –
The State Legislators’ Article V Caucus website (http://articlevcaucus.com/) includes a RESOURCES tab that is the gateway to an extensive library of Article V and federalism information.
Use it for reliable, accurate background for your own speeches, articles and position statements on the rights and obligations of state legislatures to play their Constitutional role in federal governing matters. State legislators MUST use the powers they have in the US Constitution… especially in Article V.
Who Said It?
“Our Nation’s Founders gave us the means to amend the Constitution
through action of state legislatures…. That is the only strategy that will work.”