By Bob Gatty.
A concerted drive by big business and their conservative political allies to rig the U.S. Constitution in their favor has been underway for some time and proponents have targeted South Carolina as a key to their efforts.
The objective of the initiative by the right-wing Center for State-led National Debt Solutions (CSNDS), is to convince 34 state legislatures to pass legislation calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention, which, if called, would allow any and all changes to the Constitution to be considered.
As of now, 28 states have applied to Congress to hold a Constitutional Convention, which proponents call a “Convention of the States.” If six more states join the call, Congress would be required to call for a convention. And then, anything contained in the constitution could be altered.
Legislation has been introduced in both the state House of Representatives (HB 3017, 3125 and 3155) and in the Senate (112 and 663) to achieve this. So far, that legislation is currently stuck in committee, but co-sponsors are being added.
How the Constitution can be amended is covered in Article V, which reads, “The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments.”
The purported reason for the initiative is to push for an amendment requiring a balanced federal budget, and to that end, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, has just been named honorary chairman of the CSNDS.
“Where Washington has failed, the states must step up and lead – using their constitutional authority to solve the problem,” Walker said.
That statement is incredible, given the fact that it is the Republicans and the Trump administration that is responsible for the latest spending blitz that has ballooned the federal deficit to more than $22 billion, largely due to their tax cut for the wealthy – for which they now want to pay by slashing Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other important safety net programs. And, of course, when was there last a balanced federal budget? During the presidency of Democrat Bill Clinton.
While the balanced budget amendment has drawn the most support to date, several issues have been proposed to be considered at such a convention, including term limits and altering the First or Second Amendments. Our right to free speech and freedom of the press, even our right to vote could be endangered, and still more protections for the gun lobby could be in play.
Proponents are using the budget deficit as their smokescreen for this Constitutional attack. As a CSNDS press release asserted, the national debt is now 6.5 times national revenue. In 2018, the U.S. government paid over $250 billion just in interest payments on the national debt, which is about 16 percent of federal revenue. That is more than one million dollars per taxpayer.
That’s serious, of course, but just think of the consequences if such a balanced budget amendment was inserted into the Constitution and politicians were required to immediately start cutting. Who would be the victims? If the Republicans and Trump stay in charge, it’s not difficult to guess.
As a statement issued at a recent meeting of retired United Auto Workers in South Carolina noted, “There are no rules to govern constitutional conventions. There are no rules on how delegates would be selected, what would be within the convention’s scope, or how a convention would work. At a time of extreme gerrymandering and in an environment of unlimited political spending it could allow special interests and the wealthiest to re-write the rules governor our system of government.”
We cannot allow this to be steamrolled through. Changes to the Constitution would have a decidedly partisan approach that would threaten the very liberties we have fought so hard to preserve. Please contact Representative Tim McGinnis (R-SC 56) and State Senator Luke Rankin (R-SC 33) and urge them to strongly oppose the proposed Article V Convention legislation.
It’s time to take a stand.