Saying that Washington, D.C., is irrevocably broken and is structurally incapable of fixing itself, former Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has long advocated for an Article V Convention of States to propose new amendments to the Constitution. Now, Senator Coburn has written a book about it. In Smashing the DC Monopoly: Using Article V to Restore Freedom and Stop Runaway Government, Coburn explains how an Amendments Convention would bypass a corrupt Congress to return the federal government to the control of We The People as it was intended.
The book will be released on May 30. A video preview can be seen here:
I got an education in Washington. We’re not going to solve our problems by relying on the folks in Washington. I spent 16 years there. I can tell you we’re not going to fix it based on who we send there. We tried changing it over the past six years, and it hasn’t worked.
According to Coburn, there are lots of symptoms, but the disease is a power-hungry, out of control central government that is no longer responsive to the consent of the governed. He said the cure for the disease is right in the Constitution, in Article V. It would take two-thirds of the states (34 states) to pass a resolution through the state legislatures—applying for a Convention of States—to propose a specific amendment. If something emerges from the Convention, it would take 38 states to ratify—just like an amendment proposed by Congress. Coburn explained:
The application is for a specific area. For example, the one being run by Convention of States is a three-pronged application. One is for financial responsibility. Inside that would be a mandate to have a balanced budget amendment. Also you could say that the government has to use the same kind of accounting that everybody else does. America’s government doesn’t do regular accounting. They cheat every year. This would make it so we could trust the federal government.
He gave an example:
Last September, the government said that the federal deficit was $484 billion. The debt went up $1.6 trillion. Explain to me, if our deficit was only $484 billion, how’d the debt increase by four times that amount? My biggest issue is that the real debt grew $6 trillion. We’re now up to $124 trillion in unfunded liabilities, which, over the next 50 years, the major portion of that is going to have to be paid back. Guess who’s going to have to pay that back? Millennials. That’s $30,000 per year, per milliennial.
Note: Coburn expands his appeal to millennials to embrace an Article V Convention in part 2 of our interview.
A press release announcing the release of the book further explains the depth of the problems we face as a nation:
Pork-barrel projects like the $452 million “bridge to nowhere” and Keynesian economic debacles like the $840 billion stimulus package that saved as few as 600,000 jobs ($1.4 million per job) have led to a staggering $20 trillion in national debt—about $150,000 per citizen. With most members of Congress focusing only on their own interests, it’s time to smash the DC elitists’ monopoly and rein in spending and extra-constitutional overreach.
The full press release is available at this link.
In our interview, Coburn responded to a common question: Why can’t Washington fix itself?
One, because Washington changes people. Two, the people in Washington today are career politicians. Their number one goal is to get in power, stay in power, and achieve higher office. Their goal is different than what is in the best interest of the states, and the best interests of our future, versus the best interests of their political career. You have this inherent conflict of interest for career politicians.
A constitutional amendment creating term limits—both for elected and appointed federal officials—is a central component of this effort to apply for an Amendments Convention.
Coburn was precise in his use of language throughout our interview. He repeatedly used the term “Amendments Convention,” drawing a clear distinction between this effort and a more expansive Constitutional Convention. This is not a convention to rewrite the Constitution—this is actually using the tool bequeathed us by the Founders to amend our current Constitution.
Smashing the DC Monopoly is a straightforward look at the history of conventions, why the Founders included a mechanism by which the people can take back control of their own government, and how the fear-mongering about a runaway convention is unfounded. As Coburn explained:
I go into the history of conventions and how our early countrymen used them. Matter of fact, the Bill of Rights came about because James Madison and John Jay were planning an Article V Amendments Convention, and when Congress figured that out, they just went on and passed it. So you don’t even have to get there, what you have to do is make them see that you’re getting ready to change things, and all of a sudden the people will act. Then I outline what we have to do, why it works, why it’s safe, what we can accomplish, and how we go about doing it. I explain that it’s not a constitutional convention, but it’s a limited convention based only on the application made by the states.
To truly drain the swamp, says Coburn, several amendments would need to be ratified to rein the federal government in, back to the intent of the Founders.
Here’s how you do it. You say any ruling of the Supreme Court can be overruled by two-thirds of the states. So if SCOTUS makes some stupid ruling like they did on the ACA, two-thirds of the states can say, “We don’t agree with you, so therefore it’s not a law.” You’d have to have an amendment to the Constitution to make that happen. But that’s in the scope of the convention.
The average age of Supreme Court justices for the first hundred years of our country was 47. That was when the average life expectancy was 56. So they served 7-9 years. Now we have a typical term of 30 years. Do you think that’s been a positive benefit for us as a country? No. They’ve ruled against the Constitution and its intent routinely. Individual ego and arrogance trump the original meaning of the Constitution and what the original plan was.
Just look at the Ninth Circuit Court. They get overturned 84% of the time. That means they’re activists. If you limit the time those people can be on the court, you limit the amount of damage.
In addition to judicial term limits, Coburn says we also need other amendments to truly rein in the federal bureaucracy.
One, a balanced budget amendment. Two, restoring the Commerce Clause to its original interpretation. See, the reason the Department of Education can tell you what to do in the states is because of the expanded definition of the Commerce Clause. The reason the EPA can tell you what to do is because the expanded definition of the Commerce Clause. Same thing with the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, same thing with all that stuff. You can’t have that with the original intent of the Commerce Clause. So if you return the Commerce Clause to what our Founders meant and wrote and intended, you would limit the power of the bureaucracy to have an impact in the states.
A simulated Convention was held in September 2016, and Coburn was thrilled with how it turned out.
Let me tell you, we did a mock convention, and it was phenomenal. It got really serious, really hot, it got really heated. They were working hard to get things to limit the power and scope and jurisdiction, fiscal reform, limiting the terms of members of Congress. I don’t know that a constitutional amendment to limit terms would come out of a convention, but I can tell you that 80% of Americans think it should.
Smashing the DC Monopoly is a must read for anyone who truly wants to return our federal government to what was intended by the Founders.
Note: Jeff Reynolds was recently named to the Oregon state leadership team for Convention of States Action.