Federal debt listed on the books now tops $14 trillion. But the federal government has made long-term spending commitments that actually exceed $100 trillion. As a result, the states increasingly look like colonies of Washington, D.C. Like the colonists who objected to taxation without representation during the American Revolution, those who have the most to lose from federal irresponsibility—our children, grandchildren and unborn generations to come—have no voice in the current political process. Congress will never limit its own power for their sake. Change led from outside of Washington, D.C., is their best hope for a better future.
A similar situation faced the Founders of the United States in 1776. They risked everything to throw off the chains of a distant and unresponsive regime. They did not know with absolute certainty that their rebellion would result in greater freedom and a more representative government. The Founders risked losing their lives and fortunes, as well as what few English liberties their countrymen still enjoyed.
But the Founders understood the greater risk was the status quo because London had no political reason to respect the rights of mere colonies. The sacred honor and practical judgment of American patriots demanded action, not submission.
Similarly, accepting today’s status quo will lead us down a road that threatens massive federal tax hikes, hyperinflation, and national bankruptcy. Fortunately, the Founders made sure the states can lead the way for change. Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, 34 state legislatures have the power to initiate proposals of constitutional amendments that could limit any increase in the federal debt, require a balanced budget every year, and take other steps to prevent a disaster created by excessive federal spending.
On Friday, the Goldwater Institute will host a policy forum from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. to discuss the use of Article V to rein in the federal government. I hope you can join us.
Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.
Goldwater Institute: Policy forum “Using Article V to Rein-In the Federal Government”
Goldwater Institute: 10 Facts to Rebut the Mythology of a Runaway Convention
Arizona Legislature: Senate Concurrent Resolution 1016
Arizona Legislature: Committee hearing on SCR1016 (47 minute mark)