Something that never ceases to amaze me about the current crop of Republicans, especially in Arkansas, is their complete acquiesence to whatever the trendy group-think idea is. There’s no room (or, perhaps more accurately, ability) in their ranks for critical thinking; the corporate or special-interest overlords take care of that part, and they feed the message to willing Republicans like a mama bird regurgitating soundbite-sized chunks.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the posterchildren for this non-thinking group of Tea Party-backed Republicans have pre-filed Joint Resolution #1, which is a call for a constitutional convention to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require the federal government to get state approval before it could raise the national debt. This resolution, already adopted in North Dakota and Louisiana, is the pet project of a group called RestoringFreedom.Org. To hear RestoringFreedom.org tell it — and to hear the Arkansas Republicans parrot — this amendment is necessary because Congress is not going to stop spending, and only by using the constitutional power of states to propose an amendment can we be sure that the out-of-control spending in Washington will cease.
Ignoring for a moment the fact that the idea behind RestoringFreedom.Org is supported by ALEC (among others), I can see at least two problems with the effort itself. First, an amendment-proposing convention under Article V of the Consitution cannot be limited to a single subject matter, meaning that calling a convention to consider this amendment would necessarily require that the convention consider any and all amendments that might be proposed, which could lead to some unintended consequences. Second, if this amendment passed, you would either create a situation where the government was forced to raise taxes or you would effectively return to an Articles of Confederation-style situation where the government lacked the ability to raise the money it needed. We’ll tackle each of these in turn.