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Wisconsin should act to save the country

Empower Wisconsin | Nov. 6, 2019

By Eric O’Keefe 

The Wisconsin legislature should apply for a Convention of States so that we, the people, can reassert control over the federal government of the United States. Fifteen states have already taken this step, and it is time for Wisconsin to join.

We, the people, are free. Our ancestors fought for the right to govern themselves, and to protect that right with a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution.

But congresses over the decades have ducked responsibility by delegating the authority to make and enforce laws to unelected bureaucrats. We, the people, have lost control of the federal government because congress itself no longer controls that government. The power and budget of the federal government have grown through the years, even while voters have changed which party is in control.   

While Americans are not happy with congress or the federal government, Washington, D.C. is very pleased with itself. It is a recession-proof boom town. Recently, I counted 23 construction cranes across the Potomac from my seat at Washington’s National Airport.

The federal government, and those lobbying it, are thriving.  

Congress and the bureaucracy are headquartered in a Beltway bubble where every program has a defender, and where we, the people, are seldom seen. We are out in the 50 states doing the work, serving the people, while also bearing the burden of funding this government.

The federal government is not going to volunteer to surrender power just because it is unpopular. Members of congress and the bureaucrats running the government are responding to persistent incentives to expand the size and power of the government which pays their salaries and allows them to rule over us.

Changing some faces in Washington will not change the outcome.

But the federal government is a creation of the people, acting throughout state legislatures. And the Founders placed a limited method for reform in Article V of the constitution, where the two legal ways to amend the constitution are outlined. It is the second method, in bold below, which creates a way for the people to reign in an out-of-control federal government:

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments…”

The ratification process is the same whether an amendment originates in congress, or from the state legislatures. Approval of three-fourths of the states is required.

We have never had a convention for proposing amendments. But all other approaches have failed. An Article V convention for proposing amendments is a solution big enough for the challenge we face.

The Convention of States resolution introduced in the Wisconsin legislature is not a single amendment, nor is it a list of amendments. The Convention of States application is the first in history to address a problem without prescribing a solution in advance.  

Wisconsin’s Convention of States application is “…limited to proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”

We trust the process to lead to a national consensus before any amendment is ratified. I fear the power of a federal government which no longer recognizes constitutional limits on its authority. I do not fear the people or their representatives in the states.  

Eric O’Keefe is a political activist and part-time investor from Wisconsin who serves as president of the Empower Wisconsin Foundation. He currently chairs the board of Citizens for Self-Governance, and serves on the board of directors of the Institute for Free Speech, COS Action and the Wisconsin Club for Growth, among others. Eric was co-founder of U.S. Term Limits and later president of Americans for Limited Terms in the 1990s. The last 20 years Eric has encouraged donors and activists to develop state-based political organizations to develop policy, conduct litigation, and deliver messages in order to make government representative.  

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