Mark Twain once famously quipped, “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
But let us, for the sake of argument, take the opposite view. Suppose you were not an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress? Than would you still vote for this monstrosity of a tax bill even if you were in a vulnerable GOP seat? Why? According to Dr. Nancy Maclean, author of Democracy in Chains, you might still vote in favor of the cut because you would be taking the long view, and, in her words, you could be “sealing the case for a constitutional convention.”
In a recent article in The Hill, (http://thehill.com/opinion/finance/366488-the-gop-tax-bill-could-kill-two-birds-with-one-stone), Dr. Maclean postulates that the huge fiscal deficit created by the GOP tax cut will kill two birds with one stone. The first bird is our social safety net –Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. These will all go on the chopping block as congress tries to contend with a potential 1.2 trillion dollar deficit. The second bird is a constitutional convention that could permanently alter the government of the United States.
Maclean writes that “many state legislatures were persuaded [to participate in a constitutional convention] in part by the lure of a Balanced Budget Amendment. A ballooning deficit could help get the remaining six on board.”
“By inflating the debt, the tax bill helps convince the American people that you cannot trust either party when it comes to spending. That in turn strengthens the case for a Balanced Budget Amendment, which has long polled well (until people learn that it will destroy programs they like and depend upon, like Social Security and Medicare). A ballooning deficit could help get the remaining six on board.”
Maclean points to Article V of the U.S. Constitution which provides two routes to amendment: through Congress or two-thirds of the states.
Our constitution has been amended 33 times, but always through congress. Maclean notes that Representative George Mason of Virginia introduced the inclusion of the state option in 1787 and won assent. Mason was a states right advocate, and ironically, it was at the university bearing his name, George Mason University, that a little known economist named James Buchanan first argued for a state based constitutional convention to alter the U.S. government. Most folks have never heard of James Buchanan, but the people who have heard of him — and take him quite seriously — are some of the most powerful players in conservative politics today: David and Charles Koch.
“George Mason University is today the core academic base camp of the Koch political operation… it was a GMU faculty member and Nobel Laureate in economics, James McGill Buchanan, who taught Koch and his grantees that what Buchanan called a “genuine revolution in constitutional structure,” would be needed to control citizens’ appetites for government spending.
“Why a revolutionary change? Because libertarian radicals like Buchanan and Koch believe property rights are the core human right and that government should have the right to tax — and therefore to spend — to ensure only one of three national objectives: the rule of law, social order, and the nation’s defense.”
Note that nowhere in that list is the notion of community, or social good or even what used to be referred to as the ‘commons.’ A social safety net wouldn’t just be destroyed, but with a constitutional convention, it might be written out of the governmental process entirely.
Maclean continues, “Buchanan argued that the only way to secure the liberty and property rights of the wealthy minority was to permanently change the nation’s governing rules. He referred to this as enchaining the Leviathan, a government that, he said, would otherwise only grow. He urged the leveraging of state power to achieve this. And it’s working.”
“In 2009, the GOP had full control of the legislatures of 14 states. Since the 2010 midterms, a radicalized Republican Party has gained total control of 26 states (the legislatures and the governorships), compared to the Democrats’ seven. The party has control of the legislatures of another six. In short, the shrewd Koch-GOP strategy of achieving domination at the state level puts a partisan constitutional convention within view.”
“Here’s the really scary thing.” Maclean notes, “There are six states in which the GOP controls both houses of the legislature that have not yet authorized a convention: Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, South Carolina, and Virginia. Six could line up in short order.”
Please note that Virginia is in that list.
This puts Shelly Simonds’ battle over that single vote that gives Democrats a single seat in the House of Delegates, which flips the House of Delegates out of GOP control, a whole new sense of urgency. God speed Shelly Simonds! The fate of the nation may hang on your efforts to secure the seat you have justly won.
In the meantime, the coming year is shaping up as a classic Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. Happy New Years, everyone!
You can purchase Dr. Maclean’s excellent book on James Buchanan, Democracy in Chains, the deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America, here: