The case against a Constitutional Convention is starting to surface from the right side of the American political ledger now that 39 states have officially filed applications for such a meeting with the esteemed House of Representatives. The main rub of the argument is that such an unprecedented event doesn’t have the “trial and error” experience necessary to ensure an orderly procedure which doesn’t threaten to completely re-write the Constitution and topple our solid political order. Such experimenting would be wise in order to constrain convention delegates (by law of course) in their collective role of improving the language of our founding document. On the other hand, most of the states (22 of the 39) simply charge a Convention with the relatively straight-forward task of writing the 28th Amendment to remind the federal government not to spend more money than it makes in a given year. This seems easy & innocent enough an assignment for any group of educated & honest Americans to take on. Justice Scalia doesn’t quite agree with my assessment though, famously shouting at the C-SPAN cameras last month that, “I certainly would not want a constitutional convention! Whoa! Who knows what would come out of it!?” What would come out of it indeed?! Any seemingly practical political process/goal steeped in common sense can be auctioned off and perverted a few times in the course of all the necessary trading before it’s final distorted product is laid in front of us by a gang of Congressmen who smile crookedly into the camera lenses. Think then of the possibilities of corruption among a swath of unknown delegates who are (no doubt) chomping at the bit to get a piece of the American Pie. We can’t trust them! That’s why the latest two states to jump aboard the Balanced Budget gravy-train have handed their autonomy over to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in their “Compact for America”. In passing their respective petitions on to the U.S. House, Alaska and Georgia have explicitly authorized ALEC to do all the heavy lifting. Specifically, “(t)he Compact itself would unite the 38 signing states into proposing, voting on, and ratifying a Balanced Budget Amendment at a convention and appoints all delegates for the signing states, defines the convention rules, and prohibits any signing state from ratifying or participating in any convention that disregarded it’s state assigned agenda.” If one cares to do a few minutes of research on ALEC, then one can rest-assured that a constitutional convention will be safe in their hands. Risk-averse conservatives like the Honorable Justice Scalia will have no more reason to fret about the doors being blown off the convention hall.
Not all twenty-two states calling for a balanced budget amendment have signed the “Compact for America” though. In fact, only Alaska and Georgia have promised ALEC the whip of the over-seer. All twenty-two have, however, specifically stated their purpose of making sure the federal government only serves what it can afford on it’s own merit. Another seventeen states have applied for various other amendments. The potential for political chaos is very real, given these numbers, and I don’t think anyone or anything could handle all the hub-bub when the iron starts to get hot. Some of the other amendment proposals that are out there include term-limits for Congressmen and Supreme Court Justices, revenue sharing amongst the States, right to life for the un-born, limits on income tax rates, and federal debt limits. I, for one, would love to see the pile-on effect in regards to a constitutional convention, which could happen if the right team of lawyers gets their way. Think of the panic that would strike at the heart of every largely unknown federally-elected official who never had a real job before landing head first into Washington, DC, when they learn that Congressional term-limits are being considered by a meeting of politically frustrated delegates somewhere in Kansas. While they’re at it they can throw in a few that will make the rest of the swamp-hermits sing, like, “Amendment XXXV: The Capitol of these United States shall not occupy any One jurisdiction for more than fifty years OR until the People of the given jurisdiction of the Capitol shall bring articles of eviction of the Government, whichever comes first.” That should shake the boys up enough to at least to get them to open an eye-lid. Amendment XXXV sounds reasonable enough, and of course it MUST be done. What we’ve learned since the founding of our Republic (also known as the great human experiment) is that greed is the most enduring human trait, and a permanent role such as the assistant to the chief administrator of the V.A. will turn the most pious New England Quaker into a fat, slobbering menace to society within the time span of a one-term President. Everybody knows this, but the problem is too hard to solve, even with the help of ALEC and it’s corporate owned state legislators there to push along every measure of austerity known to man. It’s all mere window-dressing. The “sequester” has taught us that.
Now, I hate to say this but I agree with almost all of the proposed amendments still hanging out there, some which have been flapping in the cold spring breeze since the seventies, except the Balanced Budget Amendment. It’s too stiff and inflexible a provision for an enlightened government such as ours. Why should we punish ourselves for the mistakes of our ancestors? Why should we limit the possibilities of our future? NASA landed a man on the moon, and the Department of Defense helped spur on the development of the internet! Anyway, a constitutional convention….what would it look like? Ah, just imagining the logistical nightmare makes me smile. Judge Scalia wants more of them by the way, wants to make it easier to add amendments. But like I mentioned earlier, he is scared of the reality of the thing if it were to actually come to life. It’s just that a convention has never been tried coming from this end of the federalist hierarchy: the STATES requesting Congress to call a meeting of the STATES to amend the law of the land. John Boehner recently said, given the news that Michigan was the 34th state (all-time) to file a petition for a balanced budget amendment, that he’d have to get his lawyers to look at it first. Well, who can blame him for saying that? His job is at stake, and the future of the country to boot! OK, so he’s not taking any of this seriously yet, and why should he? An unprecedented and obscure constitutional provision that most of his constituents probably don’t even know exists won’t be an issue in the Speaker’s re-election bid this fall. How many Americans have read Article V? Does it matter? When in doubt, outsource it! Only this time the outsourcing is being done to address an issue which affects the pocket-books of the People. A balanced budget? Whoa! Who will pay? I think that’s one we don’t have to do much guessing about.