House Takes Up Bills Calling For an Article V Convention

February 20, 2014 11:00 am

by Jon Richards · 23 comments

Scheduled for consideration on the Georgia House floor today are several bills that aim to put a brake on the growing federal debt by adopting an amendment to the U.S. constitution that would require a balanced budget. The amendment would be proposed and adopted via Article V of the constitution, which allows for a constitutional convention if requested by two thirds of the states. From Article V:

The Congress … on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress…

The first bill to be considered is HB 794, sponsored by Paulette Braddock. The bill would create a ‘compact’ binding Georgia and other states adopting the same compact to specific actions and requirements during an Article V convention.

House Resolution 1215, sponsored by Rep. Buzz Brockway, is the application to Congress for a Convention of States under Article V.

Senate Bill 206, sponsored by Bill Cowsert, provides for Georgia to send a delegation to an Article V convention, and limits delegates to voting only on amendments authorized by the state. The accompanying Senate Resolution 371 calls for an Article V convention.

Restraining Federal spending and having a balanced budget are important goals for conservatives. The push for an Article V convention is a response from those who are frustrated that our representatives and senators in DC are unable to solve the problem on their own. Concerns that a constitutional convention could lead to unintended consequences of additional amendments are valid, since the Constitution itself does not provide any limits once a convention is called. Proponents of the Article V convention movement insist that with the compacts and restrictions contained in the Call for the convention, these concerns are unwarranted.

I will leave it to our commenters to discuss the pros, cons and risks of an Article V convention.

My question, however, is what happens if the amendment passes?

In FY 2014, we will spend almost $3.8 trillion dollars. This will lead to a $744 billion shortfall, according to usgovernmentspending.com. If a balanced budget amendment were in effect today, we would have to raise taxes or reduce spending by that amount. Health care (Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare) and pensions (Social Security) account for 50% of federal spending. Other welfare payments make up 11%, and 22% is spent on defense. That leaves 17% for everything else.

The 2014 deficit is 19% of federal spending.

Bonus thought: Interest on the debt is 6% of spending. That’s because the Federal Reserve, through quantitative easing, is keeping interest rates artificially low. If the Fed were to allow interest rates to rise to normal levels, the money needed to pay the interest would be about the same amount, $1.2 trillion, as the country brings in from personal income taxes.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Lester February 20, 2014 at 11:14 am

Have these sponsors submitted anything in this session of immediate interest to the state of Georgia?

Chris Huttman February 20, 2014 at 11:21 am

Pros: None
Cons: All

Chris Huttman February 20, 2014 at 11:22 am

Are you really arguing that interest rates would be 5 times higher with no QE?

Jon Richards February 20, 2014 at 11:54 am

I knew I should have sourced that. I got those figures from Dr. Alfie Meek, an economist at Georgia Tech.

Chris Huttman February 20, 2014 at 12:15 pm

The average age of maturity for US debt is something like 8 years, which I think is from before when QE started. So that means that at least half of bonds we’re paying interest on are older and half are newer. I don’t believe the government really trades its debt – if they issue a 3% or 5% or 10% coupon they keep paying that even if the market interest rate changes and the value of the bond increases or decreases.

So with over half of our debt from before QE even started, that number just doesn’t seem valid in any possible way. But if you have a link I’d be curious to read it.

Jon Richards February 20, 2014 at 2:10 pm

No link, I got this from a lecture Dr. Meek gave recently.

George Chidi February 20, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I like Alfie. I’m not sure he’s at Georgia Tech or from it these days; I made my acquaintance with him when he was working for Gwinnett County doing economic projections on growth there.

I would argue that our export relationship with China is a factor in that deferred inflation, but I think his figure is likely close to the truth.

George Chidi February 20, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Now as for the Article V convention itself, let me say as a progressive Democrat and recovering Occupy activist …

… I’m for it.

Conservatives think if they can get a chance to rewrite the constitution, they’ll be able to do away with a whole lot of pesky considerations that are working against them, like … say … the one-man-one-vote rule, birthright citizenship, the progressive income tax and what not.

And because they — today — control more state houses than Democrats, they think they’ll be able to win.

Math fail.

I know, I know; there’s a restriction in what they can consider baked into the language of the “compact.” Balderdash. The convention is not bound by it. Neither are its delegates. An Article V convention is a Pandora’s Box allowing for wholesale changes. Once called, literally any constitutional amendment may be proposed and voted upon.

Conservatives are outnumbered, and that’s becoming more evident every day. They think they can beat the demographic clock with this move, but they’re already out of time. By the time an actual convention could be held, progressive voters will have the numbers to make the changes we want to the constitution, changes that most Americans support but that most elected officials have to block out of a sense of self-preservation from lobbying interests.

– Money is not speech.

– Corporations are not people.

– Health care should be a public utility.

– D.C. should be a state.

Instead of debating the election of senators, the floor will end up debating the constitutionality of the death penalty. Conservatives think we’ll insert an explicit acknowledgment of Christian theology in the constitution. Instead, we’ll end up with a gay marriage amendment. Hell, we might even throw out the electoral college — although I think that’s a mistake. But perhaps we can change the rules to require paper ballots and nonpartisan redistricting in every state.

You want a convention? Let’s go. If I were serving in the legislature, I’d vote for it.

Lea Thrace February 20, 2014 at 12:46 pm

I’m with you on this one. If a convention happens, I see it backfiring BIG time.

Charlie February 20, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I’ve tried to explain that, yet most in this movement think they can control only items they want coming out of it, despite constantly losing elections over public opinion on the same issues they believe they can get passes and ratified by a supermajority of states.

I continue to file this under “be careful what you wish for”.

Chris Huttman February 20, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Excellent points! The best possible outcome I could imagine for Republicans/conservatives is that something like a balanced budget amendment that sounds appealing gets passed by people who don’t think it through.

But even in that best case scenario, I would imagine the next election when social security checks don’t get sent out and soldiers get furloughed that a counter-wave would sweep the nation and then it would be more likely that that group of Article V’ers would do some of the things that George proposed while they are busy removing the balanced budget amendment.

Three Jack February 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Agreed, another misguided effort from the GOP probably generated at an ALEC meeting.

Max Power February 20, 2014 at 12:43 pm

For the millionth time a balanced budget amendment is a monumentally stupid idea. There are plenty of times when it’s smart for a government to run a deficit. In bad times you cut taxes, borrow and spend. In good times you cut spending and raise taxes. The problem is somewhere about 1981 Americans became convinced they could have big government services with a small government price tag.

Jon Lester February 20, 2014 at 12:58 pm

And of course they waited for another five-year farm bill to pass in Washington before bringing this forward.

Harry February 20, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Politics is the art of the possible.

seenbetrdayz February 20, 2014 at 8:11 pm

We’ve been borrowing and spending waaay more than we bring in for decades now. ‘Bout ready for some ‘good times.’

griftdrift February 20, 2014 at 3:12 pm

“Ladies and gentlemen, attention please
Come in close so everyone can see
I got a tale to tell
A listen don’t cost a dime
And if you believe that we’re gonna get along just fine”

~Steve Earle

SmyrnaModerate February 20, 2014 at 5:28 pm

all we need to do to balance the budget is either massively raise taxes, drastically reduce the amount of social security benefits the elderly are currently receiving or the federal government has to stop doing everything it does that isn’t the military, paying social security and paying for the elderly’s healthcare. I don’t see why the public would have a problem with any of those options going into effect. I don’t know why republicans in Washington only push the BBA when they only control one chamber of Congress and never talk about it when they actually control Washington.

Max Power February 20, 2014 at 7:08 pm

drastically reduce the amount of social security benefits the elderly are currently receiving

Social security is not the budget buster, medicare is.

mpierce February 20, 2014 at 11:22 pm

They pushed the BBA in 1995 and 1997 when they controlled both houses.

Gregory Watson February 20, 2014 at 6:52 pm

It is interesting that just 10 years ago, Georgia lawmakers expressed great fear of an Article V Convention (House Resolution No. 1343 of 2004) . The Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia Senate approved the following words, just a decade ago, relative to an Article V Convention:

“WHEREAS, former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court Warren E. Burger, former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Arthur J. Goldberg, and other leading constitutional scholars agree that such a convention may propose sweeping changes to the Constitution, any limitations or restrictions purportedly imposed by the states in applying for such a convention or conventions to the contrary notwithstanding, thereby creating an imminent peril to the well-established rights of the citizens and the duties of various levels of government”; and

“WHEREAS, there is no need for and there is in fact great danger in a new constitution or in opening the Constitution to sweeping changes, the adoption of which would only create legal chaos in this nation and only begin the process of another two centuries of litigation over its meaning and interpretation.”

What changed in just 10 short years such that now Georgia lawmakers have made a 180 degree shift from OPPOSING an Article V Convention to now SUPPORTING an Article V Convention?

GREGORY WATSON

Jon Richards February 20, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Good catch. Here’s the resolution. Interesting to see who sponsored it.

Chris Huttman February 21, 2014 at 9:53 am

Nice catch not surprising though. 10 years ago they were also for Obamacare.