Please Reject the Proposed SJR009
An Open Letter to Members of the Utah Legislature:
It is my understanding that the Utah Legislature is considering Senator Evan Vickers’ SJR009, which proposes a convention be called by the United States Congress to consider a number of changes to the United States Constitution. Historically, most of the resolutions seeking a constitution convention (by whatever name the advocates choose to denominate it) which have come before the Utah Legislature have promoted the idea that they were single issue proposals, and that any convention which may be called as a result of these resolutions would be restricted to addressing that single issue, and therefore would not place broader issues in the Constitution at risk. While this is a debatable supposition in those other resolutions, SJR009 has dropped all pretense that the proposed convention will be of limited scope. With SJR009 we need no longer pretend that the convention which would be called as a result of this resolution cannot create an entirely new constitution.
Consequently, SJR009 must be considered as the most dangerous resolution of its type which has ever come before the Utah Legislature. SJR009 is multi-pronged in its thrust to call a convention. It purports to “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government,” to “limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government,” and “limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.” It uses these innocuous-sounding euphemisms to inculcate benign impressions of the expansive swaths which may be cut through the United States Constitution if a convention for these purposes is called. While space constraints in this abbreviated synopsis prohibit a full exposition of the possible expansive fundamental changes in the Constitution these stated intentions could make if carried to their logical potential ends, each of these purposes is addressed briefly, below:
- Fiscal Restraints: We must infer that this means a Balanced Budget Amendment. Over the past several years I have diligently sought to obtain and study every proposed Balanced Budget Amendment which has been suggested. ALL of these proposed amendments are fatally flawed. Each of them have easily obtained loopholes which would allow deficit spending to continue unabated for various supposedly important reasons, many even propose simple means by which prohibitions against deficit spending could be suspended for undefined reasons. Some tie spending to some percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While the current plain English words of the United States Constitution limit spending to the few and defined purposes enumerated in the Constitution, all of the proposed Balanced Budget Amendments allow spending for any purpose if money is available. This constitutional modification could conceivably fundamentally change the national government from one with few and defined powers to one with general undefined, unspecified powers, thereby “constitutionalizing” practices which currently occur unconstitutionally. The current Constitution allows spending in fulfilment of delegated powers (ONLY), and has nothing to do with money available, or GDP.
- Limit the Federal Government’s Power: In its total, the United States Constitution is by definition a delegation of power to the national government. In its entirety it defines the national government’s power to act. To pass a resolution that would bring about a constitution convention for the purposes of “. . . limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government . . .” (as SJR009 proposes) inherently grants the proposed convention the authority to re-write and re-define the entire United States Constitution. Honestly ask yourself: “What element within the Constitution would reasonably be exempted from such an open-ended assumption of power?” It literally encompasses the entire concept of a constitution. If the Convention of 1787 could consider themselves as operating within their congressional charter to “revise” the then-existing constitution, the “Articles of Confederation,” by setting aside that constitution and creating an entirely new one, with a new process of ratification, to what lengths could a modern convention with such a charge go? We do not really, absolutely know, but is that immense possibility worth the risk? Who today, of all the possible delegates who might be appointed to attend the proposed convention would you choose to trust with this potential power? None that I know!
The intent of this year’s SJR009 is identical to other bills previously introduced in past Utah Legislative sessions. Once Utah’s Legislators understood the immense unknown spectrum of risks associated with these previously-proposed identical efforts, the Utah Legislature definitively rejected these unwise resolutions. In his monumental “Farewell Address,” George Washington offered the following wise counsel: “If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation, for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”
The Constitution is not wrong. It is simply ignored. All of the “problems” proponents of a constitution convention claim are justification of a convention are a result of violations of the Constitution caused by usurpation. Changing the Constitution based upon an almost universal practice of ignoring the Constitution is risky, illogical, and unwise!
- Term Limits: We currently have “term limits.” We are blessed with the opportunity to periodically choose our representatives based upon the election intervals defined within the United States Constitution. We the people decide at every opportunity. Would we deny the people the right to choose their leaders? Who in their right mind would term limit out a representative who keeps his or her actions within the constraints of the Constitution and proper limited government? Who would term limit out a James Madison? The original United States Constitution, the “Articles of Confederation,” had term limits (see Article V therein). The authors of the 1787 Constitution had that knowledge, but yet they decided to not incorporate term limits in the new constitution they created. They had found faults with term limits. Sometimes they were term limiting out their natural leaders that they wanted in office. Sometimes they found that they lost influence over representatives during their last allowed term. In other words, they suffered through “lame ducks” while the representatives served out their final term. Consider how we, today, fret though congressional “lame duck” sessions in the two month period between the November election and the seating in January of the new representatives. Suppose senators were limited to two six year terms. During their entire second term of six years they would be a “lame duck” and prone to all sorts of egregious behavior as they pleased those whom they hoped to curry favor with, and feathered their future without worry about displeasing their electorate. See Luke 16:1-7 for an example of how a “lame duck” unfaithful servant wrought further injustice on his master while he finished up his term of office.
Perhaps, in many instances, those offering calls for a convention are well meaning, but the expectation of an improvement on our current Constitution are at best naive. I have delivered many dozens of presentations against constitution conventions all across the nation; to general public audiences, as well as state legislators, and I have heard hours of rhetoric intended to justify such a convention. When all of the supposed justifications are stripped to their most fundamental level, they boil down to a single argument: “They are violating the Constitution, so we must modify it.” And, as a follow-up of this justification, the cry: “We must do something!” Such a position violates all logic, reason, and intelligence. Modifying what is already there and which currently prohibits the egregious behavior will not correct the behavior. This warning may be reasonably applied to the matter of my opposition to SJR009, with the added concern which is magnified by many orders of magnitude due to the absolute blank check authority to change, or even completely re-write the United States Constitution which SJR009 would grant to any convention called under authority of this resolution.
There is nothing wrong with the United States Constitution! The problem is that the nation has stopped faithfully applying it. Those who claim to love the Constitution and promote changing it are inconsistent. If they love it they MUST abide by it. Changing the Constitution does not honor it! ALL who hold office take an oath to the United States Constitution. Those who hold office (and will likely sit in the seats of any convention which might be called) are oath-bound to uphold the Constitution. Their current actions in violation of the Constitution have led to the difficulties under which the nation currently suffers. We do not need to call an Article V Convention to correct our problems. We, the people must insist that our trusted representatives apply Article VI of the Constitution. Article VI requires ALL office-holders to keep their actions within the delegated bounds established within the plain English words of the United States Constitution. All of the challenges currently facing the nation are attributable to violations of the plain English words of the Constitution, and their original application. Those who currently hold office ignore their oath, violate the Constitution at will, and we are foolish enough to trust them to correct the resulting problems in a convention that could possibly eviscerate the Constitution of the limits and bounds which are already inherent in the document???!!! One might reasonably ask: “Do we need an amendment that says ‘we really mean it this time’?” OF COURSE NOT! The officers who violate the Charter of the Nation now will continue to violate it, even if modified.
We do not need to “correct” the Constitution. We and our officials must abide by it. By so doing we will again become the greatest, freest, most prosperous, most respected, and most happy nation on earth.
The risks to our wonderful Constitution which are inherent in SJR009 are so immense as to be beyond calculation. Please soundly defeat SJR009, and every other effort to modify our magnificent Constitution. Seek to apply the other, less dangerous constitutional methods to restore this nation to the exercise of the limited, enumerated powers with checks and balances which are enunciated so clearly in the United States Constitution and its magnificent Bill of Rights. Let us vigorously seek a restoration, not change. Thank you!