Keith and Darlene

A year ago my wife and I were having a drink on the riverfront in Savannah.  It’s an open town, and you can take your drinks down to the benches close to the water.  It was cocktail time, and my wife reserved a bench while I got the drinks from a bar.  I was getting ready to join her, and claim the bench, when a very heavyset couple beat me to it.  They allowed as we should join them, so we all squeezed together.

They were Keith and Darlene, from right outside Macon.  Keith said he made his living bowling peanuts and selling them at a roadside stand.  Some days he’d take in up to 300 dollars.  Cash.  I asked him what you do when you bowl a peanut, and he said I bowl ’em for two days in salt water.  You use fifteen pounds of salt with a hundred pound bag of peanuts.  I still didn’t get it, and Darlene explained he meant boil.

We got to know Keith and Darlene pretty well.  We kind of hit it off.  They told us a lot about their lives.  They both struggled with their weight. Keith had lost sixty pounds, and was down to 260.  Darlene was still up there at 290, but she was making progress. They’d sworn off boiled peanuts.  They were nice people.  Keith was a big NRA guy, and I told him a couple Alaska stories, which he liked.

We went on to Stone Mountain outside Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, Gatlinburg, across North Carolina to the Outer Banks, and down to Charleston.  Three weeks.  We met and mingled with a lot of people, black and white.  It was all very pleasant, and we learned a lot.  We’d never spent any time in the South.  This was the first time we got to know these people.  We’re westerners.

I don’t mean to say I understand the South.  By no means.  But I got a feel for the place.  To understand politics you have to understand people, and I got to know the people of the South a little bit.

Which brings me, of course, to the Reagan Amendment.  What would Keith and Darlene, and all the other people, Southerners, that we met, think of it?  It’s an important question.

I think they’d buy in.  The South and the West have been allied against the East forever.  You’re pretty close to 26 right there.  The Midwest has to go along as well.  I haven’t spent much time there, but I’ve met a lot of these people.  You’ll have to make the case that they, personally, will benefit from the Reagan Amendment.  It’s politics.  What’s in it for me?  We can make that case.

To get to 38 you’ll need Maine, Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota.  These are the people who will decide.

Nationally the fight would be with the environmental left, and their allies in government, the media, entertainment, the lawyers and lobbyists, the academy, the trust funds and foundations, and all those who put their faith in government.  And all those who live off it.  It will be a battle royal.  The stakes would be enormous.  I think we win it.

They’ll be fighting the tide.


This new website is the handiwork of Co-founder Darren Pettyjohn.  It just went up.  I like everything about it.  It’s elegant.  And it’s going to work.  The message of the Reagan Project, and the Reagan Amendment, is going to be heard.

After our second son, Brendan was born (fourteen months after his brother Brook) my wife wanted a break from childbearing, maybe a permanent one.  But after a couple years with her little boys she decided she really wanted a daughter.  I wonder why?  So when we moved into our big house on the Hillside she got pregnant again.  With Sarah.  She thought.  Then out comes Darren.  She said that’s it, I’m giving up, and I got a vasectomy.  I would have liked to have Sarah myself.

But Darren will do.

Email blast to new version of website

The Balanced Budget Amendment can do more than just cut spending.  It can be an enormous economic stimulus, sparking a recovery to match the 1980’s.

This improved version of a BBA is called the Reagan Amendment.  It reduces the federal deficit from the supply side.  It has passed in 27 states, three in the last two months.  Only seven more are needed to call the Reagan Amendment Convention.  Campaigns are underway in nine.  In six* of them it has passed in one chamber of the legislature.
Go to to read the text of the Reagan Amendment, and learn what you can do to make it happen.
In the words of Ronald Reagan, “If not us, who?  If not now, when?”
*Arizona, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, West Virginia and South Carolina.  Montana, Idaho and Virginia are the other target states.

The next bite of the apple

It’s not the Convention of States proposal. Because it contains term limits, the math doesn’t work.  You have two groups of state legislators, one of which supports the part of CoS dealing with reducing the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.  The other group supports term limits.  There is an imperfect correlation between the two, though both, taken separately, have supermajority support.  There are legislators who support one, but not the other.  Legislators who support both are not a supermajority, so Article V won’t work.

This was brought home to us in Wyoming.  House Speaker Kermit Brown doesn’t like term limits, and he thought our BBA allowed for them.  He was confusing us with CoS.  When Bill Fruth showed him that was not the case, he released his hold on our bill.

The Wyoming legislature doesn’t like Congressional term limits.  Because of their reliance on a royalty revenue sharing arrangement with the feds, they are vulnerable.  Budget cutters are always calling this arrangement “wasteful” and want to cut it or eliminate it.  This idea hasn’t gotten any where in Congress, largely because of the power of Wyoming’s Senators.  Enzi is Chairman of the Budget Committee.  Barrasso is #4 in the Senate leadership.  Wyoming wants these men to have the power to protect them.  They like what they’ve got, and they want to keep them.

So if you’re pushing term limits you’re never going to get Wyoming.  You’ve got the same problem in other states as well.  When Ted Stevens was alive term limits were dead in Alaska.  The man was a money machine, pumping billions of federal dollars into the Alaska economy.  Other supposedly conservative states have the same situation.

So forget term limits, at least for now.  30 years ago I got all excited about Article V because I saw it as a way to get term limits.  I wanted to run for Congress, and my path was blocked.  I confused public support for the idea with support  in state legislatures.   I was young, and foolish.

So if term limits, and CoS, are off the table, what’s next?  Call it the Repeal Amendment.  Every two years each state legislature elects a representative to a constitutionally created entity which has the power to repeal federal law.  I don’t know what to call this thing.  The State Veto Commission, or something.  Every year the 50 representatives meet to decide what federal laws to repeal.  You probably only want them to have the power to veto newly enacted laws, otherwise they might run wild.  Running wild actually appeals to me, but people are conservative, and this is an unfamiliar idea, so you need to go slow.  Repeal would require a supermajority.  I’d like 3/5, but you may only be able to sell 2/3.  You’ve got to get 38 states to go along with this.

So if Congress passes some abomination like Obamacare, the states, and the people, can just toss it out.  Every time Congress passed a law they’d have to make the calculation.  Will this pass muster with the states?

Right now, I think you could sell this, particularly if the BBA Convention has been successful.  Article V will no longer be this scary thing.  It’s just part of the Constitution, no big deal. Everybody hates Congress, and clipping its wings has appeal.

Blue states won’t like it, but there aren’t that many that are true blue.  It varies, but right now I count around ten hard core blue.  Hawaii, California, Illinois and the northeast excluding New Hampshire is about all they’ve got.  And even some of them have shown streaks of red, with Maine, Maryland and Illinois having elected conservative Republican governors.

I want term limits as much as the next guy.  But as long as states like Wyoming and Alaska are on the tit, it’s going to be tough.  These are two states that will benefit enormously from the Reagan Amendment.  Maybe they can be weaned.

Severe term limits were the core of Roman law.  When Tiberius Gracchus, a liberal, succeeded in breaking them, the Roman Republic was broken.  Caesar didn’t come along for another 90 years, but it was just a matter of time. The genie was out of the lamp.  The Romans lost their law, and their freedom.

So, hell yes, I want term limits.  We might get them down the road.

Just not yet.

Penny wise and pound foolish

That’s South Carolina.  Legislators’ salary is $10,000 a year.  Their sessions last five months.  The state saves money on salary, but in exchange they’ve got a corrupt and dysfunctional legislature.  What kind of person accepts $2,000 a month in wages?  Some idealists, for sure.  But mainly people who will use their position to supplement their income, often in unsavory ways.  Our bill sailed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but is now stalled because of some arcane legislative procedure, peculiar to South Carolina.  Biddulph and the rest of the Task Force are attempting to organize some public pressure to get the House to take up the bill.  The votes are apparently there.  He’s using tax day, April 15th, as a rallying point.  He’ll be trying to get additional Presidential candidates, besides Kasich, to come in to South Carolina to campaign for the BBA.  Rand Paul is a particular target, as well as Jeb Bush.

It’s good to have the Birchers as your main opponent.  They’re harebrained, and you can count on them to prove it.  In Oklahoma they’re telling legislators to ignore Dr. Coburn, and his support for Article V, because he’s really a liberal, because he voted for TARP.  There’s dumb, and then there’s dumber.  This is strengthening our position, and could be a difference maker.  Sponsor Gary Banz has recruited the state senator who successfully pushed CoS in the Senate.  He’s now working on our bill.  We invariably win more votes than CoS, so we can be cautiously optimistic.

Stu MacPhail made a good suggestion for the Seattle Resolve, and I’ll use it.  The first leg of the stool, the traditional BBA, should include the potentiality of limits on tax increases, as well as paying down the debt.  What the Convention decides to do with these ideas is unknowable.  But the Resolve shouldn’t preclude them.  We had a brief discussion of the Reagan Amendment on today’s Task Force conference call.  These folks are Easterners, and probably don’t realize the extent to which federal land ownership is a big deal to the West.  I’ve got calls in to Gary Banz, Ken Ivory of the American Lands Institute, and incoming NCSL President Curt Bramble.  One step at a time.  No reason to rush this.

The dog that didn’t bark in all this is Rand Paul.  Where the hell is he?  Has he decided to cede this issue to Kasich?  Article V in general, and the BBA, and the Reagan Amendment, are libertarian issues.  Support for the Reagan Amendment could generate a lot of enthusiasm, particularly out West.  I believe Nevada is #4 in the primary calendar, right after South Carolina.  Nevada has the highest percentage of federal land of any state  — 83%.  They want their land.  Run on a platform of giving it to them, with the feds maintaining a beneficial interest only.  I’m missing something.

Or he is.