Opinion: CJ Opinion

North Carolina should lead on reforming the federal government

On April 28, President Biden addressed Congress and the nation to sell a spending package, allegedly aimed at improving the nation’s infrastructure, with a $2.25 trillion price tag. In many ways, this address felt like Obama 2.0, and yet another liberal president was selling us economic stimulus with the promise of “shovel-ready” projects.

In his short time in the White House, Biden has proposed more than $4 trillion in new spending, offering the somewhat cliche liberal mantra of taxing corporations and the “wealthy” to pay for the Hindenburg-like expenditures.

We know what is going to happen. If you recall, President Obama’s “shovel-ready” stimulus projects were not as shovel-ready as he expected. In the same way, the Biden spending gambit will stutter, start, and fail without stimulating the economy, lining the pockets of a few wealthy people, and adding to inflation.

Why? Because government officials will not and cannot have enough knowledge to make appropriate investments or changes in the economy. Elected officials oversell their abilities to the public in the hopes of being re-elected, and then they under-deliver, which erodes the public’s faith in the democratic republic.

As Martin Gurri wrote, about the government’s claims of competence, in his 2014 book entitled, The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium, “Once the public accepts the claims, an expectation will have been formed, and failure to perform will appear like a breach of the social contract.”

The American government needs a course correction, and North Carolina could be a leader. By joining with her sister states, North Carolina can help trigger what Article V of the federal Constitution calls a “convention for proposing amendments.” That is a gathering of representatives chosen by the state legislatures and empowered to propose reforms that Congress refuses to adopt.

When the American people were debating whether to adopt our Constitution, North Carolina — a hotbed of anti-federalism — took the lead in ensuring the document was amended to include a Bill of Rights — to provide enumerated rights to citizens and limitations on the newly formed government. Today, North Carolina can lead once more by joining the movement for constitutional amendments correcting our dysfunctional and abusive federal government.

Most Americans favor term limits on members of Congress and federal judges. Most support curbs on excessive deficit spending. Most seek a smaller federal government. But Congress refuses to adopt any of these reforms.

In some ways, the situation facing us today is similar to that of 1788-89. We have a good Constitution, but some things are not quite right. History shows that one way to correct them is by constitutional amendment.

But just as the Founders predicted, Congress has refused to propose necessary amendments. In other words, Congress refuses to reform itself. That’s why states like North Carolina should take the lead.

States can do this by adopting legislative resolutions (“applications”) for a convention for proposing amendments — just as Virginia and New York did — and just as North Carolina suggested — back in 1788-89.

Although several groups are sponsoring form applications, the best is promoted by the Convention of States Project. It would empower a convention to propose amendments to reduce the size and scope of the federal government, control its overspending, and adopt term limits. The convention could not consider any items outside of those areas, and any attempt to do so would be ruled “out of order.”

Naturally, any suggestion for reforming our federal government will encounter pushback from the nation’s political, media, and academic elite — as has happened many times before.

Today, however, we know protests to an amendment convention are generally exaggerated. The truth is that, as the Supreme Court has said, a “convention for proposing amendments” is nothing but a “convention of the states”— a prevalent kind of meeting in American history whose procedures and protocols are well known. It is a process that can be governed, legal, and will not run away from the people’s will.

North Carolina was right to promote an amendments convention in 1788, and it would be right to do so today. Our legislature can kick-start the process by approving the application sponsored by the Convention of States Project.