By: Stephen C. Eldridge

The COS is often marketed and sold with superficial, nice-sounding verbiage like “Wouldn’t you like the States to have the power to rein in the runaway federal government?” No person who believes in our Constitution’s core principle of very limited federal government would answer “No” to that question.

However, the principal purpose heard for a COS, Article V, “Con-Con”, etc, is to adopt a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) – how could any Conservative possibly be against balancing the budget? But, BBA is only superficially about balancing the budget – its principal purpose is to undermine our original Constitution’s extreme limitations on the powers of the federal government.

If a BBA is enacted, the original Constitution’s limitations on federal powers (Article I, Section 8 and the 10th Amendment) would become even less relevant than they have already become. Congress could point to the BBA and safely aver that their spending is Constitutional , as long as it is within the BBA’s dollar limitations  – whether that limit be an amount equal to tax revenues, plus all the money that Congress can borrow or print, or an amount equal to (say) 20% of Gross Domestic Product. ALL of these artificial limits are stated in terms of a dollar limit and completely ignore and override Article I, section 8’s limitations to specifically delegated federal powers.  The BBA thus creates a new, more Progressive Constitution in which the federal government may now spend money on (and thereby engage in) any activity it chooses.

COS proponents also try to assuage our fears that Congress would find a way to violate even those (new, more Progressive )spending limits.  They offer us the additional “assurance”, that Congress could not raise those (new, more Progressive) limits or raise taxes, without the prior approval of the States.  While that may sound comforting superficially, it does not comport with real life. Congress would extort the States into raising those (new, more Progressive) limits or into raising taxes by threatening to reduce federal  payments to the States, while leaving all federal mandates on the States in place (or threatening to  increase them).

The core problem is that Congress spends far more money than the original Constitution would permit, and even more than allowed by  later unconstitutional extensions of the Constitution (e.g., SCOTUS’ cowardly approval of Social Security under FDR’s threat to pack the court, and Obamacare), because it spends money on activities not permitted by the original Constitution. Voters need to press their members in Congress to squeeze the giant federal genie back into the little lamp. A BBA does not cure the problem, but would only make it far worse.  To paraphrase activist  Jeff Lewis , a BBA is the wrong solution to the wrong problem..