The states are powerful enough to stand up to the federal government when it violates citizens’ rights. Learn how we can better leverage the power of states.
As our national debt rockets past $13 trillion, just imagine if a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget had been ratified 25 years ago. That almost happened. During the 1980s, 33 state legislatures invoked their power to apply for a convention to draft a balanced budget amendment. The effort fell short by just one state of the two-thirds majority needed to force Congress’ hand to call the convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
President Barack Obama’s new health care law doesn’t just radically transform our nation’s medical system; it contains provisions that require discrimination on the basis of race.
The program is unassumingly titled the “United States Public Health Sciences Track,” and it’s among the many items hidden inside the massive, 2,000-page health care reform package adopted earlier this year. But it is anything but innocent. Instead, it is a first-of-its kind, federally funded and federally administered civilian medical school that grants advanced degrees (post-graduate, post-doctoral and technology) in medicine, dentistry, nursing and pharmacy, among others.
The federal government has spent wildly and imposed excessive mandates because the 50 states have neglected to check its growth. No “silver bullet” exists to instantly restore the proper balance of power between the states and federal government. Nevertheless, efforts to revive federalism need to include the best tools available, including an application from two-thirds of states legislatures for Congress to call a convention for proposing constitutional amendments that would reform the federal government.
A federal court in Michigan recently ignored reasoning used by other judges in Virginia and Florida and dismissed a private lawsuit against the federal health care reform law. The judge in Michigan relied on an argument by Congress that mandating everyone to have insurance will eventually lower overall costs for health care. But that line of thinking disregards a half-century of experience with health insurance in the United States.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution gives a supermajority of state legislatures the power to call a convention to restrain an overreaching federal government through targeted constitutional amendments. There is no reason to worry about a “runaway” convention because three-fourths of the states—38 states—would have to ratify whatever amendment might be proposed. Moreover, nothing in the nation’s history justifies fear of a “runaway” convention.
Several states have added a Health Care Freedom Act to their constitutions, with several more states contemplating doing so through voter measures on the November 2012 ballot. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in NFIB v. Sebelius, the adoption and deployment of the Health Care Freedom Act will be a vitally important tool in protecting individual autonomy.
Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend in 1798 that one thing missing from the newly minted Constitution was some kind of limit on federal debt:
"I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing."
Any effort to call for an amendments convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution must “make the sale” to 34 state legislatures and “close the deal” with 38 states to ratify any amendment. Resolutions to apply for a convention must consider the political appeal of potential suggestions. The National Debt Relief Amendment sets the standard for a highly marketable idea.
America’s national debt is approaching $14 trillion. To pay that off, every man, woman, and child in this country would have to cough up more than $44,000. And with Congress unlikely to stop spending, the debt is likely to more than double by 2020.