Arizona

The highlight of Saturday’s Federal Assembly meeting was the appearance of Rep. Kelly Townsend of Arizona.  She has taken it upon herself to deal with Senate President Andy Biggs, who has agreed to discuss our Resolution with her.  This is progress.  She also reported that Biggs’ Congressman has decided to run against Sen. McCain, opening up a House seat that Biggs can run for.  Complicating the situation are rumored health issues for Biggs.  There is now hope in Arizona.

The Resolution calling for One State, One Vote, One Amendment was adopted, but the true measure of the meeting’s success will be determined by the video that Jax Stafford, working for David Cuddy, will be putting together.  At Cuddy’s suggestion it will be less than five minutes, and will be in the format of a movie trailer.  Jax was quite pleased with the footage he obtained, and is enthusiastic about the whole project.

The drive for a BBA Convention is certainly a worthy topic for a documentary, and this video is a sampling of what it could look like.  We’ll run it up the flagpole and see what happens.

Alaska Rep. Wes Keller has agreed to work with me on a Resolution calling on the BBA Convention to transfer federal lands to the states, with the feds maintaining a beneficial interest in the proceeds of development.  The Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) of Bozeman has issued a report on federal lands, titled “Divided Lands:  State vs. Federal Management in the West.”  It couldn’t be more perfect for our purposes.  For every acre it manages, the federal government manages to lose $4.38.  For every acre the states manage they make a $34.60 profit.   Take half of $34.60   — $17.30 — and add the $4.38 and you get a reduction of the deficit of $21.68 for every acre of land switched from federal to state ownership.  This is a perfectly legitimate way to help balance the budget.  I’ll try to get legislators in all the western states to introduce similar Resolutions.

The Sweet Sixteen Republican field have their eyes on the first four states, especially.  The fourth is Nevada, which holds caucuses on February 23, just three days after the Saturday South Carolina primary.  Whoever wins Nevada gets a ticket to the March madness, where sixteen or more states choose their delegates.  A lot of candidates will have done so poorly in the first three that Nevada is their last chance for the ticket.  I bet one or more of these candidates endorse the idea of a BBA with federal lands transfers.  This would be extraordinarily popular in Nevada which is over 80% federal.  They want their land.  There’s no reason they shouldn’t get it.  One of these campaigns is going to figure it out.

Babbie, my wife of 43 years, drove to San Diego from Montana with me, and got to have a couple dinners with the Task Force members in attendance.  Biddulph picked up the tab, naturally.  For me, personally, this was a highlight of the meeting.

At the close of the Federal Assembly meeting I presented Dave and Susie Biddulph (who could not be present) with the first Lew Uhler Award, for conspicuous service to their country.  It’s a replica of Houdon’s bust of Washington.  The generosity and leadership of this couple deserves recognition.

They’re going to get a lot more.

Going public

I wonder how many people have thought about a Supply Side Balanced Budget Amendment?  There’s probably a law review article about it that was written 30 years ago and has been forgotten.  I consider myself a pretty well informed guy, and I’ve never heard anybody talk about it.  It’s like a secret.

If it’s going to happen  — and it could, I swear  — people are going to have to buy into it.  So they need to know about it.  I have no doubt, now that I have established contact with Lifson at the American Thinker, that he will publish some well written pieces describing the Supply Side BBA.  At that point we’ll see if there’s any reaction.

Bill Fruth thinks going public with the Supply Side BBA is a mistake, but I think the time has come.  He thinks we’ll stir up a hornet’s nest with it.  He may be right about that, but the hornets are already on the loose.  A George Soros organization broke us in Montana.  These people are on to us.

The Supply Side BBA was originally devised as a way to get Wyoming.  It’s still the only way we get Wyoming.  But we only get Wyoming if Phil Nicholas believes there’s a real shot at a Supply Side BBA.  How can he believe that if it’s a secret?

We’ll see if anyone salutes.

A Supply Side Amendment

Let’s stop fooling ourselves.  Not everyone who votes against an Article V Balanced Budget Amendment is worried about a runaway convention.  For some, that line is just a fig leaf.  What a lot of these state legislators are afraid of is getting off the federal tit. Take a look at Wyoming, our least populous state.  From 2001 to 2012 the Census Bureau says 41% of the State of Wyoming’s budget was federal money.  If the feds balanced their budget Wyoming legislators know that a large chunk of that 41% will disappear.  At least half.  Is the Wyoming legislature prepared to cut their budget by 20%?  Are they going to increase taxes to replace the federal money, perhaps adopting an income tax?  They don’t want to do any of that.  But they won’t admit that they fear being weaned, so you hear a lot of talk about a runaway.  It’s the same story, to a slightly lesser degree, in all of our target states.*

We haven’t been able to make the sale in these states.  Even if we successfully counter the runaway argument, we have to realize we still might not make the sale.  The federal government has, in effect, bribed the states.  So instead of trying out new sales pitches, maybe we should look at what we’re selling.  It looks an awful lot like austerity.  It’s bitter medicine, and it’s hard to swallow.  The closer we get to 34, and the more real the prospect of austerity becomes, the harder the sale.  When a product won’t sell, sometimes it’s the fault of the product.

Enter the Reagan Initiative, or, if you will, a Supply Side BBA.  Federal spending consumes far too high a percentage of our national wealth.  Cut spending, of course, but also increase wealth.  Instead of promising painful budget cuts, put on offer prosperity.  We’ve been selling vinegar.  Let’s try some honey.

Half of Wyoming is owned by the federal government.  If Wyoming legislators could be convinced that they’d get title to that land with a Supply Side BBA they’d take the deal.  There’s a whole lot of wealth tied up in that 50% of their state, and even if they split the proceeds of development with the feds they’d still come out way ahead.  It’s more or less the same with our other western targets Idaho, Arizona and Montana.  We don’t get to 34 without them.  If they believed they’d get their land we get them all.

So what’s in it for West Virginia, and South Carolina, and Wisconsin?  Regulatory reform could save the coal industry, so West Virginia shouldn’t be a problem.  Regulatory reform helps the entire country.  The EPA and other federal agencies have pissed off the whole country.  Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the regulatory burden is a huge drag on the economy.

The Supply Side BBA should also be easier to ratify.  Purplish Washington, Oregon, New Mexico and Colorado would all get vast swaths of federal land.  And regulatory reform would be popular everywhere except the deepest blue states.

The fight to ratify a Supply Side BBA would be the defining political contest of the early 21st century.  The entire ruling class would fight it to their last breath.  Business versus the environmentalists.  K Street vs. Wall Street.  Private sector versus public sector.  Capitalism vs. socialism.  Middle America against the coastal elites.  The people vs. the government.

If the Amendment Convention embraces the Supply Side, the principal political question it must decide is whether to include tax reform.  Would that help ratification or hurt it?  Listen closely to the delegates from states like Maine, Minnesota and Kentucky.  Their voters are the key.  We don’t know the answer to this question today.  It must be asked and answered when the Convention convenes.

A Supply Side BBA is not pie in the sky.  Once the 34 state threshold has been met there is nothing to prevent the Amendment Convention from proposing it.  If 26 states decide to give it a try, it’s a go.  Start with eleven Western states that would get federal lands, and add the six sympathetic western states running south from North Dakota to Texas to get you to seventeen.  Coal states and the solid south get you to 26.

The stars have aligned, and an Article V Amendment is within our grasp.  How long they remain aligned is unknowable.  If we’re willing to seize the moment we can completely turn this ship around, and set a new course for freedom.  One Constitutional Amendment  — a Supply Side BBA  — can break the federal government’s stranglehold on power, restore federalism, and usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity.  Why would we not?

What are we afraid of?  Ourselves?

*Montana, 38%, Arizona and South Carolina, 36%, West Virginia and Idaho, 35%, Oklahoma, 34%, Wisconsin 29%.

Crisis and opportunity

As baby boomers age and retire, a crisis looms.  The benefits they expect and need threaten to bankrupt the federal government, already laboring under an $18 trillion debt.  Fundamental reforms are needed, but Congress has been and will be incapable of enacting them.

This crisis is an opportunity for the states, and the people, to assert their authority over the federal government.  27 of the needed 34 states have passed Resolutions calling for an Article V Balanced Budget Amendment.  Republicans are in total control of the seven legislatures still needed.  If these Republican legislatures can be persuaded to pass the needed Resolutions the first Amendment Convention in our history will meet.

Is a Balanced Budget Amendment the answer to all our problems?  A traditional BBA, consisting of spending and debt restraints, is necessary but woefully insufficient.  An expanded understanding of what constitutes a Balanced Budget Amendment is needed.

Budget deficits can be eliminated by reductions in spending or by increases in revenue.   A “balanced” Balanced Budget Amendment should include both.  Once it is accepted that increasing revenue to the federal government is within the scope of a Balanced Budget Amendment, the possibilities of using the BBA to enact fundamental reforms open up.

Federal regulations are a huge impediment to the sustained 4% economic growth we need to generate the revenue needed to balance the budget over the long term.  The Competitive Enterprise Institute recently estimated regulatory cost to the economy at $1.8 trillion a year.  An increase in economic activity in half that amount would produce an enormous amount of revenue to the federal government.  Regulatory reform thus belongs in a Balanced Budget Amendment.  Such reform could range from a requirement that all new regulations must be approved by Congress to one which only required approval of regulations with more than $100 million in impact.  The decision on how far to go is a political decision which will be made by the Convention.

Land transfers to the states would also vastly increase federal revenue, provided that a significant portion of the revenue which would be generated by development on this land be reserved to the federal government.  So, for instance, if the 69% of Alaska that is owned by the federal government were to be transferred to state ownership (excluding national parks, Indian reservations, and active military installations) there is no question that a portion of the former Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)  would be leased for oil and gas development.  The bonanza of tax revenues and lease payments would be split between the state and the federal Treasury.  All throughout the West, from Montana south to New Mexico, and all points west, the story would be the same.  BLM and Forest Service land that has valuable resources on or under it would, under state control, produce enough economic activity to have a major impact on the deficit.  The fracking revolution could be doubled, as vast oil and gas fields would open up on formerly federal lands.

Regulatory reform and land transfers to the states would go a long way toward facilitating the kind of economic growth this country needs.  But the greatest impediment to such growth is the IRS and the Internal Revenue Code.  Adoption of a consumption tax or a flat tax, such as the one recently proposed by Sen. Rand Paul, would, over the long run, create an economic boon bigger than the Roaring Twenties.  Such an economic expansion would not only eliminate deficits it would allow paying the debt down.

When the Amendment Convention convenes it, and it alone, is the judge of what can properly be included within a Balanced Budget Amendment.  If it decides to follow the Byrd Rule all of the ideas set out above would be allowed.  The United States Senate, on numerous occasions, has used the Byrd Rule to justify inclusion of such items as opening up ANWR in a budget reconciliation bill.

The debate over an Article V Balanced Budget Amendment has not, until very recently, included discussion of using it as a vehicle to promote economic growth.  Once it is widely recognized that such a course is open, the question becomes one of political judgment.  How much can be included, and still be ratified by 38 states.  If Congress is supportive it can specify that ratification take place at State Ratification Conventions, as was done with the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition.  If the Amendment proposed by the Convention has broad public support, Congressional leaders may be pressured into choosing this method.

Then it will be up to the voters.  If delegates to State Ratification Conventions are chosen at a special election, many low information and low motivation voters would not vote, increasing the chances of passage.  Purple states like Maine, Minnesota and Washington would hold the key.  Can the political independents and moderate Democrats in these states be persuaded to vote for a Balanced Budget Amendment that includes some or all of the revenue generating proposals outlined above?  It’s a once in a century opportunity.

It may never come again.

If not now, when?

There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.  Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.  On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures.

Like Brutus, I can feel momentum.  Sense it.  The fiasco rollout of the Obamacare website woke me up, and I knew something big was up.  The government, through President Obama, had not only lied and deceived the people, it had been exposed as breathtakingly incompetent.  The tide turned, at that moment, to run with us.  It’s been running strong for close to two years, and shows no sign of abating.  This website, and my work with the BBA Task Force, is premised on a political tide of historic proportions.  Article V needs such a tide to succeed.  A storm tide.

We are so close, and the obstacles we face are eminently surmountable.  Everyone is all jacked up about San Diego.  Biddulph is putting on a big show the evening of Thursday, July 23rd.  It’s on the official ALEC calendar, and has no competition.  We may get a couple hundred people in the room.  It’s coming together.  Article V is approaching critical mass.  Once enough state legislators see the opportunity afforded them by Article V, once they realize they have the power to fix this country, it is bound to happen.

When, in American history, has virtually the entire country been more disgusted with Washington D. C. and everybody in it?  Never before has the federal government been more aggressive, overbearing and incompetent.  People are so thoroughly pissed off that they cry out for something to be done about these outrages.  And nothing really happens.  So they wonder if anything can be done.

Enter Article V, stage right.  Put your faith not in politicians, but in the people.  Tell them the story of Article V, tell them it was designed for today, and tell them that if they want to save their country they have a tool.  A tool the Framers knew would some day be needed.  They hold it in their hands.

The filming that will begin in San Diego is the beginning of the telling of the tale.

And what a tale we have to tell.