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.


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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