Captain Rick: Thomas C. Patterson, a former Arizona State Senator, sees the Compact for America as a test to see if Americans are still able to take their future in their hands or if they are content to see America continue its decline. States have constitutional authority to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget. This is a ‘long shot’ but it offers a ray of hope to save America from pending fiscal decline.
The U.S. Congress recently raised the U.S. National Debt Ceiling to an astronomical $17.2 Trillion, exceeding U.S. Gross National Product … a wake-up call for any nation. The U.S. Congress raised the debt ceiling to accommodate current spending levels and thus kicked ‘America’s debt can’ down the road again for the Nth time to deal with after the fall election. The sad fact is that with the cost of entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and pure welfare programs like Medicaid, greatly expanded by Obamacare… U.S. spending is mushrooming at an alarming pace, while revenue is increasing at a snail’s pace that can not keep up. I see this resulting in America sailing over the real ‘fiscal cliff’ in the not too distant future… an event that has the potential to reduce America to a third world country.
I invited Thomas, whom I have long admired for his excellence in thinking, to present guest commentary. With his acceptance, I asked him to tell us why his commentary is important to Americans. His reply:
Thomas C. Patterson: “I see the Compact–a constitutional convention of the states–as a test for Americans. Are we still able to take our future into our hands, like our founders did, to forge the nation we want or are we content to see America continue its decline? Do we care enough about our posterity, as our founders did, to undertake the most difficult, improbable shared national initiative in our time or will history judge us as standing by while a nation founded in liberty slides into oblivion?”
ABOUT: Thomas C. Patterson is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Nebraska. He was elected to the Arizona State Senate in 1989, serving as minority leader from 1991 to 1992 and majority leader from 1993 to 1996. Patterson was the author of legislation creating Arizona’s charter school system and welfare reform program. Until 1998, he was a practicing physician and president of Emergency Physicians, Inc.. Patterson also served as president of the Arizona chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. In 2000 he became chairman of the Goldwater Institute. Thomas is a retired physician and resident of Paradise Valley, Arizona.
ATRIDIM NEWS JOURNAL
Thomas C. Patterson
More Americans than ever feel our federal government has been permanently taken over by special interests and collectivists.
Dependency on government is reaching ominous levels. Spending that exceeds income has become part of our political culture. We feel like shouting that our debt is dangerously high and that it’s immoral to pass on to future generations the consequences for our self-indulgence.
Yet realistically, there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it. Until maybe, just maybe, now.
The answer to our despair may well lie in the Compact for America, an agreement among the states to come together to propose a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution. This idea is so promising and dynamic that is gathering momentum across the states, including ours, where it is known as HB 2305.
Here’s the skinny. The U.S. Constitution gives the states the power to call a constitutional convention, as a protection against central government overreach. The framers’ expectation was that once every generation or so, states would need to convene and tweak the Constitution to respond to evolving conditions and to protect the rights of people from the inevitable tendency of power to centralize.
The framers were prescient in understanding that the states would need this privilege, but for one reason or another the states have never called a convention. Every amendment proposed to the Constitution has come through Congress, the other authorized pathway.
It is said that the founders didn’t include a balanced budget provision in the founding documents because they thought it unnecessary. Now that incomprehensible levels of fiscal recklessness have become the norm, the potential need for the states to intervene is clear.
The problem is that, since the states have no experience with a convention, several concerns have arisen over its execution. How would the convention delegates be selected, how would votes be apportioned, how would leadership be chosen? More importantly, what about a runaway convention? What would stop interest groups from taking over the convention and bending the Constitution for their own hot-button issues?
It’s worth remembering that any proposed amendment would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the state Legislatures. But these are serious questions asked by serious people and they deserve answers.
Here’s the genius of the Compact for America. It allows states to know the answers to all the pertinent questions, including exactly which amendments may be considered, before they sign on. When state Legislatures pass a resolution agreeing to the contact, they become part of a constitutionally recognized organization of states created for the express purpose of proposing constitutional amendments. The selection process for delegates, convention logistics and even the text of the amendment would be in the compact document itself.
Would this be difficult? Would there be opposition from all sides? Are there still questions to be answered? Yes, yes and yes. Vast private and government interests are heavily invested in business as usual. Moreover, compacts require the blessing of Congress, although this has been previously granted.
But the Compact for America isn’t constitutional craziness, like annulment or secession. This isn’t some sort of redneck revolt. It’s an opportunity for states to use the clear intent and language of the Constitution to rein in the federal government and put the republic on a more sustainable course.
Unquestionably, the Compact for America would represent change and innovation on a scale many may find unsettling. But this is our challenge. Are we, the political descendants of founders who risked everything to create the most free and prosperous government in the history of the planet, now so timid that we are afraid to use the tools they gave us to defend ourselves from tyranny and decay?
The risk larger than the Compact is the continuation of politics as usual. If we continue doing the same thing, it’s highly probable we’ll get the same results.
Our present predicament was anticipated by the founders. It is precisely the reason they gave the states the power to amend the Constitution. They would very much urge us to use it.
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