The Liberty Amendments

 

Mark Levin’s new book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring The American Republic is out, and it proposes an ambitious set of Amendments to the Constitution:

“I undertook this project not because I believe the Constitution, as originally structured, is outdated and outmoded, thereby requiring modernization through amendments, but because of the opposite — that is, the necessity and urgency of restoring constitutional republicanism and preserving the civil society from the growing authoritarianism of a federal Leviathon. This is not doomsaying or fearmongering but an acknowledgment of facgt. The Statists have been successful in their century-long march to disfigure and mangle the constitutional order and undo the social compact.”

So starts the book. Which then goes on to analyze where the country has gone wrong constitutionally and to propose the following constitutional remedies:

  • An Amendment to Establish Term Limits for Members of Congress
  • An Amendment to Restore the Senate
  • An Amendment to Establish Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices and Super-Majority Legislative Override
  • Two Amendments to Limit Federal Spending and Taxing
  • An Amendment to Limit the Federal Bureaucracy
  • An Amendment to Promote Free Enterprise
  • An Amendment to Protect Private Property
  • An Amendment to Grant the States the Authority to Directly Amend the Constitution
  • An Amendment to Grant the States the Authority to Check Congress
  • An Amendment to Protect the Vote

(Mark Levin's new book, The Liberty Amendments, with my yellow stickies.)

I’m not going to go through each of these proposals. For that, buy the book (!) or if you want a synopsis, see Jeffrey Lord’s review at The American Spectator.  Joel Pollak also has a review at Breitbart.com as well as a detailed interview.

Rather, I’ll try to put it in context.  (I guess I gave it away in the post Title.)

As I was pondering how to write up this review, I saw a lot of Twitter chatter about an article by Stephen Moore at The Wall Street Journal, The Budget Sequester Is a Success:

The biggest underreported story out of Washington this year is that the federal budget is shrinking and much more than anyone in either party expected….

This reversal from the spending binge in 2009 and 2010 began with the debt-ceiling agreement between Mr. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in 2011. The agreement set $2 trillion in tight caps on spending over a decade and created this year’s budget sequester, which will save more than $50 billion in fiscal 2013.

As long as Republicans don’t foolishly undo this amazing progress by agreeing to Mr. Obama’s demands for a “balanced approach” to the 2014 budget in exchange for calling off the sequester, additional expenditure cuts will continue automatically. Those cuts are built into the current budget law.

In other words, Mr. Obama has inadvertently chained himself to fiscal restraints that could flatten federal spending for the rest of his presidency.

The sense I get from reading the entirety of Levin’s Amendments is that they effectively are constitutional sequesters meant to restrain the runaway extra-constitutional expansion of the federal government without deferring to human nature.  Fundamentally, the proposed amendments are a firm check on the well-documented inclination of those with federal power to expand federal power.

The Constitution enumerates the powers of the federal government.  But, as Levin documents in his book, that enumeration has been largely eviscerated by politicians and judges who are beyond reach.  So Levin proposes constitutionally imposed term limits for Congress and the Supreme Court.  Politicians have a strong incentive to spend other people’s money to buy votes which corrupts the entire process, so Levin proposes Spending and Taxation limits.  The other amendments address similar problems.

As Levin states in his interview with Pollak linked above (emphasis mine):

And I’ve concluded that Washington is incapable of reforming itself, which should seem fairly obvious. After all, it has designed the federal Leviathan, which is getting bigger and more aggressive.  And I was thinking: What has this federal government become? It is not a constitutional, federal, or representative republic, as our Framers understood those institutions. I believe the federal government is increasingly operating outside the Constitution and that we are in a post-constitutional period. This is how justices, presidents, and members of Congress are able to concoct and then impose such monstrous laws as Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, among thousands of other laws and rules every year, on an unwitting population.

I’d have to think through the “what ifs” of some of these proposals, such as repealing the 17th Amendment.  Considering that the unions control the legislature in my formerly home State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, I’m not sure empowering the state legislature to appoint Senators is an improvement.

I view these proposals less as a set of likely constitutional amendments, given the difficulty of the process, and more as a set of principles by which we must insist our elected representatives live.

A good use for the book would be to bring it to Town Hall meetings this summer and get your Representative — Republican or Democrat — to commit to where he or she stands on these principles.

Just hold up the book as you start to ask your question, and watch the faces of the politicians grimace, because they know what’s coming.

 

The Liberty Amendments consists of a well thought-out program of amendments (offered as a starting point for discussion and modification), combined with a political strategy that could (at least potentially) work: using a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of the states. As Article 5 of the Constitution reads:

 

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, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

 

In Chapter One of the Book, “Restoring the American Republic (also the subtitle of the book itself), Mark lays out his case that judicial precedent and politics have in effect altered the Constitution the framers intended us to have, and restoring a constitutional republic as originally envisioned is going to require some extensive amending. Fortunately, Mark has posted this chapter online for all to read. I urge readers to click on the link and see the case that Mark makes.

 

The actual program of amendments, each analyzed in a separate chapter, should be read by all who see in this bold and visionary program a way to rescue our republic before it falls, as it surely will if present conditions continue to develop as they have been since the progressives first gained power. Sure, it is easy for me to point out how difficult it is to accomplish the passage of calls for a constitutional convention in 34 states. But take a look at a map of the red states, and then imagine the sort of grass roots movement Mark calls for, one energized and focused on local legislators. And keep in mind that state legislatures would gain enormous resources and power, should something like the program of amendments be ratified. Self-interest, properly checked and balanced, is the essence of our founders’ wisdom, and legislative self-interest is a factor worth keeping in mind.

 

The chapter titles indicate in broad outline the nature of the constitutional program Mark has in mind:

 

An Amendment to Establish Term Limits for Members of Congress

 

An Amendment to Restore the Senate (repeal of the 17th Amendment establishing direct elections, provisions for replacement of senators before the end of their terms, and establishing the right of a state legislature to remove a senator upon a two-thirds vote).

 

An Amendment to Establish Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices and Super-Majority Legislative Override

 

Two Amendments to Limit Federal Spending and Taxation (limiting the federal government to outlays not exceeding 17.5% of GDP, and limiting total federal tax collections from any source to no more than 15% of a person’s income). I must confess that I found reliance on specific numbers troubling here and in a few other amendments because there is so much room for manipulation in calculating GDP and income, or in determining the value of certain dollar amounts included in other amendments.  But Mark makes very clear his is not the last word on this or any other subject, but merely a proposal to get people thinking about an entire package that counteract the transformation of the federal government into a colossus never imagined by the founders.

 

An Amendment to Limit the Federal Bureaucracy (automatic sunset for all department and agencies if they are not legislatively reauthorized, mandatory congressional authorization of any regulation imposed by bureaucrats if the economic burden exceeds $100 million).

 

An Amendment to Promote Free Enterprise (redefining the Commerce Clause to a specific grant of power limited to preventing states from impeding commerce among the states, and preventing Congress from regulating commerce within a state).

 

An Amendment to Protect Private Property (curbing abuses under the Takings Clause).

 

An Amendment to Grant the States Authority to Directly Amend the Constitution (allowing two thirds of the states, voting for the exact same language, to amend the Constitution, and providing a six year time frame within which the passage must be secured).

 

An Amendment to Grant States Authority to Check Congress (three fifths of the state legislatures may overturn acts of Congress or larger impact executive orders, within 24 months, with no judicial review permitted).

 

An Amendment to Protect the Vote (requiring photo ID for voting in person or via mail ballot and prohibiting electronic voting).

 

My summaries of the gist of each amendment ignore finer points in the text of each, not to mention in the discussions Mark presents.

 

Conservatives badly need to come together on a vision for America that can be presented to the American people as a way out of our dysfunctions that multiply with each growth of federal power. If Mark Levin succeeds in kicking off a grassroots movement to restore the constitutional balance, he will have performed a historic public service.

 

Theodore Koehl siad in “The American Thinker”:

Top conservative radio talk show host, attorney and constitutional scholar Mark Levin announced the pending release of his new book, “The Liberty Amendments, Restoring the American Republic,” this past Wednesday, July 10, 2013, during his regular broadcast. The book due out on or about August 13th of this year is sure to be well received and thoughtful exegesis regarding our Constitution, and in keeping with his best selling, “Liberty and Tyranny,” as well as the more recent, “Ameritopia.”

 

Levin previewed an argument under Article Five of the United States Constitution which expresses how the Constitution can be changed through the amendment process by using the traditional passage of a proposed amendment by two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate; then on to the several states for ratification. Once three-fourths of the states have ratified the proposed amendment, the approved Amendment becomes part of our United States Constitution.

 

What Levin also said was that the States could also propose a convention to add a specific amendment or reject a current amendment by calling an Amendment Convention. This convention would have no bearing on the existing framework of the Constitution, but would only affect the addition or subtraction of an amendment at hand.

 

Levin reported that under Article V of the Constitution, two-thirds of the several states could form a convention on their own through actions initiated through their own state legislatures. Once an amendment is successfully proposed, it could be ratified by approval of three-fourths of the legislatures of the several states, and then imparted into the Constitution.

 

The Founders placed this alternative method of amending the Constitution as an end-around the possible tyranny of an all-powerful federal government. The Founders knew the federal leviathan could never be completely trusted with policing itself and therefore gave ultimate authority to the states to make changes when they deemed it necessary.

 

Mr. Levin is correct in his assessment of the rights of the several states and their people to control their government, at every level. This contributor suggested a similar course of action in an article published by American Thinker on July 7, 2013 titled, ” How to Repeal the 16th and 17th Amendments,” where the proposal was made that the several states could initiate repeal of amendments by their respective legislatures voting to de-ratify or otherwise invalidate those current amendments.

 

Again, when two-thirds of the several states have filed an instrument to invalidate either the 16th or 17th Amendments, another vote takes place in many or all the states to approve or disapprove the amendment. Once three-fourths of the several states have voted to approve the proposed change, notification is presented to the Archivist of the National Archives for inclusion into the Constitution.

 

While some have expressed concern that a full Constitutional Convention is needed to effect changes outside the traditional Congressional process, Levin demonstrates this theory is not necessary and may be done by state’s initiatives through their various legislatures in keeping with the people’s wishes. An Article Five Amendment Convention is possible and maybe needed if the federal system continues to act outside its limited and strictly enumerated authority.

 

This author submits that accepting differences in paperwork processing, the states de-ratifying of any existing amendments are tantamount to the same as an Article Five Amendment Convention.


Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2013/07/radio_host_mark_levin_suggests_the_states_call_an_article_five_amendment_convention.html#ixzz2bsyn

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