The case against a Constitutional Convention is starting to surface from true political Conservatives now that 39 states have officially filed applications for such a National meeting with the esteemed House of Representatives. The main rub of the argument is that such an untested trial is too risky to be experimented with in an era of dwindling American influence. We need to be guaranteed of an orderly procedure with a narrow focus so as to eliminate the threat of a complete constitutional re-write. Such an ambitious under-taking would inevitably topple the Washington’s political order and probably put our national security at risk. It would therefore be wise to constrain convention delegates (by law) in their collective objective to only add language and not change it. On the other hand, most of the states (22 of the 39) simply charge a Convention with the relatively straight-forward task of creating the 28th Amendment to ensure that the federal government does not to spend more money than it collects in a given year, which seems simple enough for any group of civic-minded people to take on. Justice Scalia doesn’t quite agree with this 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 with even a tinge of common sense can be auctioned off and perverted a few times in the course of all the necessary trading before the final distortion is laid in front of us by a gang of politicians who will smile crookedly into the cameras and tell us how hard they worked on a “compromising deal”, that “isn’t perfect”, “but is the best we could do under pressure”. Taking that view, think of the possibilities of derailment among a swath of unknown delegates who are (no doubt) chomping at the bit to have their names go down in history with the likes of all of America’s Founding Fathers. That’s why the latest two states to jump aboard the Balanced Budget train have surrendered their political autonomy to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in their “Compact for America”. In passing their respective petitions on to the U.S. House of Representatives, 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 when the words of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson become those of a few obscure state congressmen who have enough friends in the Oil Industry to convince the rest of their colleagues that America’s economy would grow faster without the First and Fifth Amendments.
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 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 the Midwestern Plains. 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 Pols up enough to at least to get them to open an eye-lid. Amendment XXXV sounds reasonable enough to me, and of course it MUST be done to save the Republic. What we’ve learned since the founding of this country (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 the government of such an enlightened people such as ourselves. Why should we punish the living for the mistakes of the dead? 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 cringe and then smile at what it would actually look like. Judge Scalia wants more of them by the way: he wants to make it easier to amend the Constitution. But like I mentioned earlier, he is scared of the reality of it. It’s just that a convention has never been tried coming from the bottom 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 American tax-payer. A balanced budget? Whoa! Who will pay? I think that’s one question that we don’t have to do much guessing about.