Missing: A Set Of Brakes

A continuing series of discussions of Mark Levin’s new book,
The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic

(Discussion #6 – Amendments on Spending and Taxes)

It's all about the green stuff
         It’s all about the green stuff

Now we’re getting into the thick of it. It’s time to talk about Congress, the money, and what Mark Levin proposes that we should do about it in Chapter Five of The Liberty Amendments.

The thing to hold foremost in mind throughout the analysis of Levin’s proposals—and in developing our own understanding of the Article Five second process—is that the States are sovereign entities. This was not only something that the Founder’s envisioned, but was in fact the situation when the union was formed. These sovereign entities created the Constitution, and they ultimately have the most say in what it means. It’s just that the States have rarely “spoken,” and have allowed the Supreme Court to do the speaking, more or less on their behalf.

CongressProgression[220]Letting the Supreme Court be their voice worked reasonably well for most of the past two-hundred and twenty-five years. Unfortunately the federal Congress has become a dangerous clown car with no brakes. It knows only how to spend more every year, and cannot bring itself to ever slow the rate of taxing, spending, and increasing the size of government. It’s time for the States to speak. By passing Amendments dealing with the budget and taxation process, the states can restore the congressional power of the purse to its intended purpose.



The first of the two Amendments is about SPENDING. Levin proposes to

  • Automatically reduce the budget when Congress and/or the President fail their budgetary duties
  • Constrains budget outlays by requiring outlays be no greater than total receipts and to not exceed 17.5% of the GDP
  • Specifies that borrowing is not included with total receipts
  • Separate total outlays from debt repayment
  • Provides for Congress to temporarily override these restraints, or to increase the debt ceiling by a supermajority vote

The second of the two Amendments is about TAXATION. This amendment is far simpler in scope than the first of these. Levin lays out four major restriction on the power to tax, being

  • A limit on the percent of a person’s income that may be taxed
  • The deadline for filing is set to be the day before federal elections
  • The “death tax” is done away with
  • Congress will be forbidden from sales or value-added taxation

In these two amendments, a great deal of ground is covered. Despite the broadness of the language in them, Levin has stayed within his self-imposed challenge to confine the Liberty Amendments to structural limitations. Thus these two, with all their depth, are not a list of grievances laid at the feet of Congress, nor are they an attempt to redress specific acts of Congress. When the Convention of the States is underway, we should strive to limit the delegates to similarly confined proposals. No nation can operate under restrictions that become so lengthy and specific that they lose all meaning in a few short years. The Founders wrote for future generations. So should our delegates from each participating state.

Levin spends many pages developing the case for these controls on Congressional spending and taxation. He shows why the credit rating of Treasury Bills has been downgraded twice, explains why we’re headed for an economic collapse, and why the Fed will not and cannot prevent it. This is the most difficult section of the book for many people, because it takes some knowledge of economics (not to mention basic accounting) to really follow the massive mess we are in, and why Levin’s proposals can help eventually unravel it.

The Founders did not intend for Congress to take up every mean and trivial cause. The satisfaction of dairy cows and how to train children to read are not the concerns of the national government. To engage in these and other aspects of our lives and livelihoods is a usurpation. A usurpation that the Founders believed was clearly forbidden to the federal powers. Congress was not given the power to spend the people’s money for purpose other than broadly general concerns regarding the powers and duties with which they were charged. They have decided that “general” means “anything they want.” And so they spend on things they shouldn’t; which requires massive increases in tax.

The power to tax is clearly the power to destroy. Levin delivers his best punch in suggesting we make “tax day” the day just before elections. This is a most satisfying proposal, and if none other of his reforms are adopted, this one at the very least should be.

I urge you all to read Levin’s quotes from Justice Story, as wall. Like many other such quotes, you can learn a great deal about the rationale behind our Constitution.

To keep this short, I’ll close with the suggestion that this chapter is one that you should read several times.


Previously:

Discussion #5: How much power do the states have?
Discussion #4: What If They Hijack the Convention?
Discussion #3: An Invitation to Our Friends on the Left
Discussion #2: Run Away!
Discussion #1: Zombie Doctrine, Tactics, and the Liberty Amendments

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25 thoughts on “Missing: A Set Of Brakes

  1. Suggestion to RS moderator(s): This is an important story, why not “pin” it to the top of p. 1 and let it rest there until the conversation is over?

    1. Scoop is right to preserve the currency of page one. The brand of this site is a clean, uncluttered structure, and a focus on short, punchy stories that make the news for regular people.

      If you compare it to TheBlaze or several other sites, you’ll see how they bog you down with too many choices.

      TheRightScoop has climbed up the list of right-side blogs and news sites remarkably quickly, because of Scoop’s focus on getting the video faster than anyone else (most of the time).

      Having wrote that, I’m working on a solution.

  2. “Congress will be forbidden from sales or value-added taxation”

    So this would eliminate the possibility of the Fair Tax? Not sure if I agree with that one.

    1. DIsqus ate my reply, so I’m going to see if I remember it.

      Sales taxes aren’t really better than income taxes. (I took two paragraphs to say that the first time.)

      The crux of the difference between Libertarian economic theory and Conservatives is on the issue of taxes. Libertarians have established fairly thoroughly that no such thing as “just taxation” really exists in economic theory. Conservatives who are honest openly accept a little injustice in order to pay for a minimalist form of government. That sounds perjorative, but it’s essentially true. They cloak it in language of paying your fair share, but they all know that’s not a free-market concept, just as they know a standing army is not truly part of minimalist government (militias are what was called for originally).

      I happen to agree with Conservatives on this, by the way. I’m just open about the differences. I think we have to have a professional military, augmented by militia (National Guard, essentially) during times of war. We also need the CDC to keep looking ahead on diseases. But the government should be prevented from meddling in healthcare in any way. (Healthcare fraud should be managed by the states.) We have to pay for that, and tariffs and levies on imports won’t cut it.

      So none of sales, property, nor poll nor income (direct) taxation is more “fair” than any of the others, since they all rely to some degree on having certain people pay more than all of the rest. So it’s an open question to me.

      I’m guessing a mix would make sense, but it must have firm Constitutional caps. Say 10% of personal income and 1% sales tax, with three-fifths of the states required to alter it.

      I agree with Levin that the government should keep it’s hands off of estate taxation.

  3. I’ve established a twitter account for @ArticleVProcess

    So folks can follow that to see what’s happening with Article Five Process news.

  4. I had to rush this. Hence the typos. I think I’ll leave them in.

    As I mentioned to Bill, below, start letting us know of your contacts with state representatives. We can keep the list as a project we all work on together.

  5. Good point. Perhaps more important than anything else in getting people to support this process is to do what we can to change their perception on state sovereignty. The truth of the matter, that the states are sovereign is so alien to most people. Once people “get” that point then the rest, will be much easier. They will rightly begin to see that the Federal government has usurped the sovereignty of the states, and that these powers which they have seized for themselves, are illegitimate.

  6. K-Bob, while perhaps a bit off topic for this particular post, I did want to raise a few miscellaneous issues for discussion. If you think they would be better addressed in another posting, I understand.

    – In Mark’s interview with Jake Tapper, Tapper raised an argument against term limits that I’ve heard from time to time. California, which has adopted term limits, is usually cited as an example, and the argument is that term limits will end up giving too much power to bureacrats. My sense is that the inevitability of this outcome is exaggerated. At any rate, we shouldn’t settle for tyranny of entrenched Senators and Congressmen just to avoid a tyranny of bureaucrats. If such a tyranny arises then we will address it as a seperate issue. Any thoughts?

    -The issue of what we might reasonably expect in terms of concreted progress towards a state amendments convention, for the 2014 election cycle. What strategies might we want to pursue to help this movement?

    -It occurs to me that since we only need 2/3 of the state legislatures to agree to a convention in order for it to proceed, then 34 states is the necessary quoram. And, if only half of those states attending the convention need to approve of an amendment for that amendment to be submitted to the rest of the states for ratification, then that means an amendment could conceivably be submitted with the support of as few as 18 states. Is this correct?

    If so, then perhaps by thinking creatively there may be ways to make this process easier if we focus treating these requirements as seperate goals. For example, it is at least conceivable that for various practical reasons it might be smart to focus on some deep blue states to help us reach our quorem, knowing all thie while that once the convention is convened, their imput would be essentially meaningless, as they will be well outnumbered at the convention by red states. If my logic here is flawed, or my facts are wrong, let me know.

    1. Your points are well taken. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul have shown how a small, tightly-focused, intelligent, and statesmanlike group can twist the nose ring of the Congressional bull. It stands to reason that a coalition of similar stalwarts can effectively make sure that Amendments that are produced by the Convention will be of the proper form; protecting and maximizing liberty.

      Regarding the last point, I’m not sure about the deepness of the blue. When it comes to states’ legislatures, the big cities may still hold a lot of sway, but not nearly as much—I would hazard—as they do in national elections. So it’s going to take some hard work by people in each state to gauge the support levels for the Convention. We might be pleasantly surprised in several cases, and shocked in others.

      But your thinking is spot on.

      1. I wonder whether states like California, that allow state referendums could use this process to direct their state legislatures to attend.

        1. Interesting. I guess it would take a reading of the California Constitution to be sure. After all, Proposition 8 was soundly passed, and scurrilously voided by a judge who should have recused himself.

          But it was an excellent example of the people bypassing the legislature.

          1. As you point out, the courts, as they so often do, might try to interfere, but if not, it might be a viable way to bypass an intransagent state legislature.

    2. Congressional staffers–are those the miscreants that wrote Obamacare? Staffers should go home with the one who brung them though they will probably follow our esteemed elected officials to K-street.

  7. Thanks for raising this subject again, it’s an idea whose time has come. No, whose time is long past! If we are to survive as a nation, as a people-centric society and not a government-centric dictatorship, we need to move quickly on the Convention of States. I will participate at the local and state level, and I believe from the feedback I’ve received from my state representatives that Tennessee will be one of the states involved in the opening rounds. Bring it on.

    And if you HAVEN’T read the “Liberty Amendments” book yet, you can get a wonderful overview by reading Chapter 1, and then the Epilogue at the end. They are breathtaking. Then take time to read all the middle chapters containing the suggested amendments. This is revolutionary stuff, folks, and I highly recommend it.

    1. I don’t want to reveal too much, too early, but if you want to go ahead and state who you called, how it was received, and whether they seem “fer it or agin it”, then we can start tracking this info.

      We can make it a big, group effort, and sidestep the whole “organizational” inertia that comes with joining groups and getting a 501(c) thing.

      1. Glad to: I contacted my state congressional and senate districts folks, to wit:

        – Senator Stacy Campfield in TN Senate District 7
        – Congressman Roger Kane in TN House District 89

        I got positive feedback from both of them; Sen. Campfield’s response was somewhat pro forma and terse (of the “sounds good to me” variety in a single email), and Rep. Kane’s response was more voluble and we exchanged several emails over the topic. Knowing their political ideologies (very conservative) both of them will be, I’m pretty sure, reliably pro-State Convention if it comes about.

        I also wrote our governor, Gov. Bill Haslam, with the same basic information but have gotten no response from him at all. I know that state governors will have little input in this process, but I thought I would send him the info as a courtesy and to see if he did have any response, as Haslam is also a well-known conservative in this state.

        I will post the generic wording of my initial email to my representatives in a separate box for anyone to use as a template for contacting their own state people….look for it in the box below.

      2. Here is the wording I used in contacting my state reps:

        September 3, 2013

        Honorable___________:

        I am in your _______(house or senate) District 89, residing at _______(my address)___________, and I work at ________
        _______ in ___________, TN.

        I am writing about a matter of great importance to the State of
        Tennessee and to the nation. I hope, because you are a conservative as am I, that you share my concern of the growing
        liberal (or “Progressive”) direction our country has been going in for the past 100 years and the profligate spending that is turning America into an impoverished debtor nation. We have drifted from our Constitutional roots to such a degree that our founders would
        not recognize our country; further, I think they would be saddened and infuriated at what we have become. America’s fiscal and domestic policies are quickly becoming ruinous, leading to unsustainable debt and an amoral society with no roots.

        However, I just recently read a new book and a new approach
        to governance, by Conservative talk-show host and Constitutional scholar, Mark Levin. The book is “The Liberty Amendments,” (currently #1 on the New York Times reading list) and it is nothing less than a call to the states, under Article V of the US Constitution, to form a Constitutional Convention, enact certain amendments laid out in the book, and to ultimately wrest control of power in America from the Federal government and return it to the states, where it rightfully (and Constitutionally) belongs.

        I am taking the liberty of attaching that book’s Chapter 1 (courtesy of Mark Levin), which lays out Levin’s basic premise and research into this subject. I can think of nothing better than to pass some time reading these 20 pages about how we can save our nation. Basically Levin is calling for a Constitutional Convention, not one appointed by Congress (which most people think is the only way it can be done), but rather one called for by the states, which the framers also put into Article V of the Constitution. Two-thirds of the states (34) can bypass Congress and call a Constitutional Convention to amend the Constitution itself! (By happy coincidence, 34 states, including Tennessee, have opted not to set up health care exchanges as called for by “Obamacare.”)

        It’s a long process, and it will require a major effort to talk to every
        statehouse Representative and Senator. But the fight is to restore
        sovereignty to the states, and that is why I am writing you. Provisions can be made to ensure that The Bill of Rights (our first 10 amendments) would be fully protected and not subject to nullification or amendment.

        I hope this idea is already being discussed among some state governors and legislators in other states, and it’s going to be a long path, but I think it’s a worthwhile goal to set. We are doing the Lord’s work here… yes, it’s that important. I predict that many, many citizens in your district will support you in this effort, should you decide to join the fight. Perhaps Tennessee might even play a pivotal role in forming such a Convention.

        The Progressive muddle we find ourselves in today has been 100 years in the making. There is a way out. A state-enacted Constitutional Convention may be a peaceful, civil way to take back control of the Constitution and return democratic power to where it belongs, to the states and to We the People.

        Sincerely,

        1. Looks good, but you can’t call it a “Constitutional Convention”. Wait, is this the same letter you posted before?

          We already discussed that, right?

          1. Yes, in later communications with Rep. Kane, I referred to it as a Convention of States. …and I can’t recall, but I may have posted this wording before. I lead a busy life and my memory for the details isn’t always what it should be.

    1. Thanks, pj! I know what you mean. I’m glad I got the kindle version. In these articles, I have to restrict myself from too much detail on the book so that people don’t rely on book reports and quotes online. Levin’s sales figures are fine of course, but if people don’t really take their time to read it thoroughly, they’ll miss a LOT.

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