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October 2016 Policy Study, Number 16-3


How To Restore Federal Fiscal Sanity: The State Legislatures Hold The Key


What Is The Opponents' Strategy - And The Real Issue?



Who are the opponents of a Balanced Budget Amendment?


They are a strange mixture of (1) liberal special-interest groups, government employee unions, and others who want more federal spending, and (2) right-wing extremists who are terrified when the State Legislatures exercise their rights under Article V of our Constitution.


Both groups distrust the American people and State Legislatures.


The first group believes the people and Legislatures are too stupid to spend money wisely, so an all-wise, all-powerful federal government should take it and spend it for them.


The second group believes the people and State Legislatures are so stupid, or care so little for our liberties and our Constitution, that they would ratify dangerous amendments that would take away our freedoms – or even a whole new constitution imposing a communist government or other horrors. 


There is a third group of opponents: sincere, well-meaning people who have been frightened by false propaganda.


Why do the opponents argue about a constitutional convention instead of debating the Balanced Budget Amendment?


The opponents of a balanced federal budget know they can’t win by arguing against a balanced budget or against a Constitutional Amendment to require it.  Public support is too strong, and citizens’ fear of rising federal debt is too great.  Since they can’t win on the real issue, their only hope is to manufacture a false issue.


Their diversionary tactic is to create imaginary fears of a U.S. constitutional convention.  They argue that a convention would destroy or endanger our Constitution and our freedom.


It’s a clever, dishonest tactic.  The terrible harm done by runaway federal debt is visible and growing.  But our nation hasn’t had a constitutional convention since1787, and that one was held in a totally different situation.  Most people have not studied an Article V convention and its safeguards, so our opponents think they can defeat the BBA by waging a scare campaign against a convention.


What did Senator Sam Ervin say about our opponents’ tactics?


The late Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina, whose reverence for our Constitution is legendary, spoke the plain truth:


“I think that the fear of a runaway convention is just a nonexistent constitutional ghost conjured up by people who are opposed to balancing the budget, because they want to be able to promise special interest groups something for nothing out of an empty pocket.”  (Testimony before California Assembly Committee on Ways and Means, February 15, 1979.)


Then what is the real issue?


A balanced budget is the real issue.  A State Legislature’s call for a limited U.S. constitutional convention is not the issue: it is merely the necessary means to achieve a Balanced Budget Amendment.




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