On behalf of the National TaxpayersUnion’s (NTU’s) 362,000 members nationwide and our 7,700-plus members in thestate of Indiana, I urge you to exercise your prerogative under Article V ofthe U.S. Constitution to advance a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) for thefederal government. This proposal is part of the Freedom Amendments Resolutionyou are considering.
As you may know, since its foundingin 1969 NTU’s most fundamental and enduring goal has been to establishconstitutional limits on the size and future growth of government. Throughoutthe 1970s and 1980s, my organization helped to launch and sustain the movementfor a limited Article V convention among the states to propose a BalancedBudget Amendment for ratification, having secured 32 of the 34 resolutionsnecessary to initiate this process. During that time we also led the drive for a BBA in Congress, which passedthe House of Representatives in 1995 and came within one vote in the UnitedStates Senate of adoption for subsequent ratification by the statelegislatures. Unfortunately, the scare tactics of extremists thwarted attemptsat enactment through both routes.
More than 15 years after thisnear-triumph, the federal government’s borrowing and spending binge has onlyworsened. Just last month, the Congressional Budget Office projected an annualdeficit of $1.5 trillion … which was the amount of the entire accumulatednational debt in 1984.
On a more encouraging note, thescholarship on behalf of Article V’s relevance and utility has growntremendously, especially in recent months. Professor Robert Natelson, forexample, has conducted painstaking research to show that the Founders certainlydid not construct Article V as an afterthought or an accident. From itsconception, the provision was intended to be vigorously applied toward remediesfor federal overreach. Nick Dranias of the Goldwater Institute has, through anongoing series of works, cogently demonstrated that Article V is a fundamentalelement in our constitutional system of checks and balances, one whose exerciseis both necessary and safe. They join modern-era conservatives in proclaimingthe vital role of Article V such as Justice Antonin Scalia, who in 1979 wrote:
Ihave no fear that … extreme proposals would come out of a constitutionalconvention. … The founders inserted this alternative method of obtainingconstitutional amendments becausethey knew the Congress would be unwilling to give attention to many issues the people are concerned with, particularlythose involving restrictions on the federal government’s own power.”
Those words echo the opinion of Ronald Reagan, who statedforthrightly:
... [V]oices have been raised warning of danger that a constitutionalconvention would open the door to all mannerof proposed amendments. In my view those who warn of this show little faith inour democratic procedures. TheConstitution provides for both methods and the convention is a safety valvegiving the people a chance toact if Congress refuses to.
Yet, during this time the naysayershave failed to muster any credible evidence for their case, preferring insteadto conjure up the “nonexistent constitutional ghosts” that the late Senator SamErvin, an Article V advocate, warned about more than 20 years ago. We are toldthat the cure for federal profligacy lies in “electing the right leaders,” allwhile Republican and Democratic Presidents and Congresses abused the nation’sgood credit. We were told that statutory measures would bring outlays undercontrol, even as laws such as the Gramm-Rudman Hollings Act were trampled underfoot.We were told that elected officials need only “follow the constitution,” andthere would be no justification to amend the nation’s foundational document.Today, the entire republic that our Constitution undergirds and guarantees isthreatened with extinction due to reckless federal fiscal policies. We were told that limits on taxes andspending were too trivial for the Constitution, a notion that seems quainttoday as our national debt tests the ominous level of 100 percent of thenation’s economic output. Unsustainable entitlement programs, whose direcondition has been known for at least 20 years now, threaten to heapunfathomable burdens on taxpayers.
In short, it is imperative for statelawmakers to exercise the power our precious Constitution has given them toprevent a catastrophe due to federal excesses. Your predecessors had theforesight to declare Indiana’s support for a BBA in 1979, when the GeneralAssembly enacted an Article V resolution. To turn away from this path again nowwould be a tremendous mistake. As we wrote in “Why You Must Lead the Congress”over two decades ago:
The Founding Fathers had no way of predicting thecurrent irresponsible spending policies of the federal government. Yet althoughthey could not foretell the future, they were men of great wisdom. They didforesee the possibility that Congress might fail the people. It is for thatreason that Article V of the U.S. Constitution enables the states to amend theConstitution.
Please review the checks and balances [on an amendmentconvention], then ask yourself several questions. Do you think the FoundingFathers made a mistake in providing the people with a way to reform theCongress, when Congress was part of the problem? Do you believe that Congressshould be granted monopoly power over the amendment process? … [C]an you nameone country which is not in big trouble because of the money it owes? The realdanger facing America is national bankruptcy brought on by deficit spending bythe United States Congress.
Such words have never been truerthan today. Our members hope you will recognize this fact and pursue the mostrational and safe option now before you: enact an Article V resolution for alimited convention to propose a Balanced Budget Amendment.
My organization has produced awealth of materials that demonstrate why Article V had vital historicalsignificance to the Founders, and how the Article V process contains numeroussafeguards to prevent any so-called “runaway convention.” Please contact us with any questions you mayhave or information you may require in your deliberations. Above all, however, pleasedo not allow this historic opportunity to restore fiscal responsibility slipfrom your grasp because of unfounded fears and ungrounded contentions.
Executive Vice President