Beyond the Balanced Budget Amendment – Give Us Back Our Constitution

Many thanks to American Thinker for publishing my article, A Balanced Budget Amendment is not enough – Give Us Back Our Constitution.   The comments to the article illustrate the frustration many Americans feel with our federal government.  In the last hundred years the Framers’ fundamental constitutional structure has been betrayed by all three of the branches of the federal government.  The executive branch has assumed ever greater powers, often essentially ruling by decree through regulations promulgated by unelected bureaucrats and Presidents who have seized the power to start wars without congressional approval.  The judicial branch has assumed the right to effectively amend the Constitution by diktat of five unelected justices of the Supreme Court, and has done so dozens of times.  And the legislative branch has usurped the rights of the States and the People to the point where no one can articulate any real boundary to federal power to tax, spend or police. 

The problem is structural.   Even if this Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a future Congress can resume borrowing and spending.  That is why we must look to constitutional amendment to constrain Washington.  However, it is unrealistic to expect that two-thirds of both houses of the federal Congress are ever going to vote true and lasting limits on their power.   Such limits are only going to come from the States and the People.  The “amendment amendment”  clears the way for States to enact amendments to the Constitution without having to go through Washington.  

There is a tremendous pent-up desire to use the amendment process to restore the proper balance of governmental power in our Republic.  Besides the various balanced budget amendment proposals, there are the repeal amendment, an amendment to cap federal spending, and congressional term limits to end the era of the professional Washington politician.  The “amendment amendment” opens the way for these and other worthy proposals to be presented to the People without having to first be approved by the very body they are intended to limit.

Some of the commentators to the article raised the very good point that, given the extent to which the federal government has ignored and violated the Constitution thus far, why would it obey new constitutional amendments restricting its power?  Short of arms, the only answer to that is drafting.  No one violates constitutional clauses which are clear and precise.  For example, federal elections are held every two years, and Congress has never attempted to grant a title of nobility.   Federal power has been expanded where the Constitution’s language was too general.  This is not to criticize the original framers (I do think the drafters of the fourteenth amendment deserve to be criticized for being deliberately vague) – one can not foresee every possible abuse.  However, now that we can see how and what the federal legislature, executive and courts have abused in the constitutional language, we can draft tighter language which closes those loopholes.  I propose a number of such amendments in Timely Renewed.   However, first we must end the congressional monopoly on initiating constitutional amendments by passing the “amendment amendment.”

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