Landess: Why the Article V ‘Solution’ Isn’t One

November 13, 2015

Inside Insight

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SC Senate Chamber

Do you really want South Carolina state lawmakers tinkering with the U.S. constitution?

The call for a convention of states through Article V of the Constitution is compelling. Citizens feel powerless to stop the federal government from crushing them with taxes and debt, grabbing power that is beyond its scope, and eroding Americans’ constitutional rights.

It’s understandable that some activists would join the latest movement for a sweeping, one-shot solution to out-of-control government. But such a solution doesn’t exist, and the push to empower state legislators to choose delegates to tweak the constitution isn’t just misguided – it’s flat-out dangerous.

If state legislators were the solution to the crisis of government, there would be no crisis in the first place. It’s true that Washington is a complete mess, and cleaning it up will be a long and painful process however it’s approached. But state lawmakers and governors are already empowered to do something about it. If they would turn down the federal dollars, they would free the states from the mandates and the costs that come with them.

Sound too simple? Maybe, but it’s really the only way to stop DC politicians from controlling state programs and spending borrowed billion to prop up state budgets. No law will accomplish that as long as state officials keep requesting, accepting, and spending billions of federal dollars every year.

State lawmakers – including several in South Carolina – love to talk about federal overreach. It’s easy to shake their fists at DC, but those fists turn to open palms when the money is doled out – and that’s where they actually give up the control they accuse Congress of taking.

Many of the solutions called for in a convention of states – term limits, sunset provisions, balanced budget amendments – already exist at the state level with no effect on high taxes, increased spending, and massive debt. None of the “safeguards” passed by the states have stopped the worst practices of government. They’ve just made state politicians better at creating loopholes and sounding “conservative.”

It’s true that citizens can better control state leaders than those in DC. But that requires us to actually make our voices heard, not only during elections but in throughout the year. We can leverage state law to stop government overreach at all levels, but we’ll have to accept that it will take resources and time to change state government. That’s especially true in South Carolina, where our government structure is actually designed to foster the concentration of power and secrecy.

And that’s the best reason to oppose a convention of states: the delegates who would be altering the U.S. constitution would be chosen by our state legislature. In this state, that should be enough to deter anyone from supporting this idea. Ultimately, it would almost certainly be legislative leaders calling the shots – as they do over every area of state government. Surely the most power-grabbing politicians in the nation are the last people we should put in charge of changing the U.S. constitution!

We all crave a one-stop solution. But there isn’t one, and the faster we recognize that and get down to the real work of eliminating barriers to freedom through restoring the free market and our constitutional rights, the faster we can take back the power over all government that is guaranteed by the constitution.

Ashley Landess is president of the South Carolina Policy Council, The Nerve’s parent organization.