Fritz Pettyjohn: The lifeline for our national debt crisis is a Convention of States

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National debt on June 16, 2024, per the usdebtclock.org

By FRITZ PETTYJOHN

Our growing national debt is beginning to impact every American. The inflation caused by federal overspending is hurting us all. The interest on the debt is crowding out other national priorities. Economists of all political persuasions agree that this level of deficit spending cannot be sustained.

Neither Trump nor Biden offer a solution. The problem is in Congress, where neither Republicans nor Democrats are capable of reducing spending. Congress is a broken institution, corrupt and dysfunctional. What can be done?

The Alaska Legislature has responded to this situation by passing Article V resolutions calling for a Convention of States to propose a constitutional amendment to control federal spending. The first passed in 1982, as the national debt first surpassed $1 trillion. Another, modified, version passed in 2014, with the support of none other than then-Sen. Mike Dunleavy. Back then the debt was $17 trillion. It has doubled since, to $34 trillion. It is now rising by a trillion dollars every 100 days.

Article V is the remedy the Framers of the Constitution gave to the states to control Congress. There is no other solution to congressional deficit spending available. Article V instructs Congress to issue a call for a Convention of States once it receives valid resolutions from 34 states, a threshold which has arguably already been reached.

The principal argument against the use of Article V is the fear of a runaway convention. The convention of 1787 was called by the Confederation Congress to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Instead, it proposed an entirely new Constitution. What’s to stop another Convention of States from doing the same thing?

Congress itself has the power to prevent that from happening. It can simply declare that the convention exceeded its authority and refuse to refer the convention’s proposal to the states for ratification. The Confederation Congress of 1787 could have done exactly that. It could have rejected the proposed Constitution and refused to refer it to the states for ratification. It chose not to do so. 

Under Article V, a Convention of States has legal authority only when it is called by Congress. Any amendment proposed by a convention can only be ratified when it is referred to the states by Congress. The United States Congress can prevent a runaway convention. 

I believe the day will soon come when Congress reluctantly acknowledges that it has received 34 valid Article V Resolutions calling for fiscal reform, and that it has no choice but to call for a Convention of States. That convention will be charged with finding a solution.

When that convention meets, it must necessarily proceed in a bipartisan manner. Unless the amendment it proposes is ratified, the convention will be a failure. In order to be ratified, an amendment needs a 3/4 supermajority of the states to approve. In practice, no constitutional amendment has ever been ratified without broad, bipartisan support.

The delegates to any Article V Convention will be selected by each state legislature. It will be a high honor, which will only be given to legislators with talent and experience. All of these men and women will have assembled supermajorities in their own legislature. It’s not easy. To get a 3/4 supermajority is extremely difficult. But it can be done, if the matter is urgent, and the stakes high. Republicans and Democrats will have no choice but to cooperate. The amendment they agree to propose will be one which can and will be ratified.

Article V offers the states a lifeline, to be used when all else fails. I believe it will happen, eventually, because there is no real alternative. Time is running out.

Fritz Pettyjohn was elected to the Alaska State Senate in 1982 and voted for an Article V resolution calling for a fiscal reform amendment. He blogs at ReaganProject.com .

16 COMMENTS

  1. He’s not wrong, but it will never happen. Special interests have too much to lose.

    Remember what happened here when we tried?

  2. A $1 trillion national debt sounds so quaint. Heck, a $14 trillion debt sounds quaint. At some point this thing will implode.

  3. If we get to the point of selecting ‘delegates’ let us ensure we select true conservative fiscal hawks. That specifically means:
    NO … Daddy’s Little Princess
    NO … Scary Mary
    NO … LeFrance and/or any of her crew
    NO … Unhinged Anchorage Assembly Members
    NO … Commie Marxists

    Excellent opportunity to completely eliminate entire ‘wasteful’ Agencies as well as reduce the size of remaining Agencies – Entities. Surely, we could cut this largess of Fed Guv’ment by 75%-80%? Surely, we can exercise $30Trillion penalties on China for the release of the bio-weapon Covid-19? Surely, we can increase the interest rate on that +$225Billion Loan to Ukraine? Surely, we call in chits for the infrastructure improvements and security provided in Afghanistan and Iraq? Surely, we can claw-back the Financial contributions made to Iran?

  4. Fritz, the Biden solution is to hire 88,000 new IRS enforcement agents so he can whittle away the debt by substantially raising income taxes in his second term. That’s his solution.

  5. If we mess with our Constitution, we risk some serious repercussions. Isn’t everyone aware that the leftist supporters are just frothing at the bit for us to do this? They have many, many things they would like to change in it. If we open it up, we might be really sorry because of the ignorance of so many people. If we don’t follow our Constitution now, what about changing it will will improve that situation? I’m vehemently opposed to this no matter how well intended it is. It sounds good just like rank choice voting “sounded good” and we know that the law of unintended consequences kicked in after that.

    • The fact of the matter is, the US Constitution is being violated by several of these government agencies due to the fact that congress CANNOT, under the constitution convey lawmaking ability to these bureaucratic nightmare. But, that is what has happened. A lawsuit would be all it would take to eliminate the ability of these useless bureaucrats to continue to usurp our rights under the constitution. The same is true in the state of Alaska. If the judiciary wasn’t in the pocket of the liberal leftists in Juneau, we wouldn’t have the continual theft of the PFD from our citizens by the politicians. There are several regulations, from seat belt laws to the Anchorage alcohol sales tax, that are illegal under the constitution and the municipal charter, that should not exist.

    • Just be aware, changing the Constitution via a Convention of the States is almost as difficult as doing it through Congressional action. Slightly easier, but still difficult.

  6. Considering the majority of Congress works against the People, we should be able to have a Convention of States WITHOUT Congress initiating it. We should also be able to fire every congress person on the spot.

  7. So , I really would like to know
    Why the heck are we still paying taxes? Our country is about to go bankrupt and we are giving billions to other countries to keep their wars going, politicians are painting rainbows across their asses and taking out 30% out of our paychecks for the paint, the brain bot professors are teaching young men and women to butcher themselves and hate the USA.
    Why should any of us pay taxes to a morally, ethically and financially bankrupt government?

  8. The official debt to GDP of 124% is deceptive itself. The GDP estimate includes government spending of 50%, the government spends tax dollars and printed/digitized “money”, it does not produce anything. We are faced with a 250% debt to GDP problem. We are facing a complete collapse of what we call an economy and no one in a position of power is serious about or has a clue on how to deal with this. It’s just a matter of time before a collapse far more dramatic than the collapse of the Soviet Union (which was a financial, dysfunctional economic system collapse) occurs.

  9. Does anyone doubt the validity of intent as to why sore-oh’s funnels so much money to radical socialists organizations.
    Until that teet is severed the intended goal will come to fruition. Just possibly not in his lifetime, but along came junior OH’s to finish driving the stake in though.

  10. I am an AVID supporter of the CONVENTION OF STATES . Mr. F. Pettyjohn has provided the BEST and most CONCISE explanation & historical background for Article V of the US Constitution.

    I have great reservations that the goal of 34 states will enact this convention while I am alive (age – + 70).

  11. We as a nation are in dire trouble, a convention of states is a important possibility left to us by the founders.

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