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Stopping the National Debt: A Movement Led By a Cowboy, a Colonel, and a Citizens’ Cavalry

By Ralph Benko

“The only threat to our freedom is the concentration of power. Congress is using its unfettered ability to generate debt for its own benefit at the expense of the American people. It is called taxation without representation. We at RestoringFreedom.org have decided to take a stand. We are confident that support will continue to build because it addresses America’s debt crisis by breaking up the monopoly of power in Washington and holds Congress accountable to the American people.”

— Glenn Hughes, co-founder and chairman, RestoringFreedom.org

No matter which party wins next November Washington again will — with a phony show of reluctance — raise the debt limit to allow it to continue its borrowing binge on our tab. Most Americans understand that the debt ceiling debate is as choreographed, as predetermined, as a professional wrestling match. Eyes full of crocodile tears, Washington will increase its debt ceiling by hundreds of billions … or trillions … of dollars.

But a cavalry of state legislators and concerned citizens is riding, outside the notice of the elite media, out of no fewer than 16 states to put a halt to this crooked game. These are citizens and citizen-legislators fed up with Washington’s bankrupting America.

Cutting federal spending is a holy grail of conservatives, libertarians, populists like the Tea Party Patriots, and the fiscally responsible — whether Republican or Democrat.

But … how?

The 18-word National Debt Relief Amendment, that’s how: “An increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the legislatures of the separate states.” This strips the Congress of the power to raise the national debt ceiling and shifts it to the States –establishing a serious check on Washington’s borrowing, and thus spending, power.

In 2011, North Dakota and Louisiana passed this Amendment. This year the Arizona and Oklahoma Senates have passed it. It is pending in their respective Houses. It has been introduced in a dozen other bodies. Texas and Montana, among others, will introduce it as soon as their state legislatures again convene.

The Amendment uses an “emergency cord” embedded in the Constitution by the Founders. Article V allows a supermajority of states to call for constitutional amendments. The proponents of the National Debt Relief Amendment are invoking that power to take the ability to raise the national debt ceiling out of the hands of a profligate Congress and place it in the hands of state legislators, lawmakers more accountable to the people.

The national spokesman for the Amendment is North Dakota state senator Curtis Olafson, and, as it happens, a sure enough cowboy out of the John Wayne tradition. Olafson is not about to let Washington put his grandchildren deeper in hock — not without a fight. Hey Pilgrim — you forgot your pop-gun. Olafson:

“Our Founders wisely foresaw that they would need to include in the Constitution a method to empower the American citizens to rein in an overreaching federal government. Article V, via the state legislatures, the government closest to the people, gives us that power. If ever there was an issue for which we should be invoking the power of Article V it is our out-of-control federal debt crisis.”

A strange coalition of ultras — the John Birch Society and the ultra-liberal dean of American constitutional law, Harvard’s Laurence Tribe — oppose using Article V. They fear that a state-proposed call for a constitutional amendment could not be constrained. But legal and constitutional scholar Nick Dranias, of the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute — the gold standard of state-based policy institutes — rigorously researched the risks. Dranias dismisses the fears as badly misplaced.

As noted by national columnist Rachel Alexander in her recent column, Who’s Afraid of an Article V Amendments Convention:

“In Federalist No. 85, Alexander Hamilton explained that states did not need to call for a full constitutional convention since Article V provides full power to amend the Constitution. James Madison specifically supported the use of Article V in Federalist No. 43. Accusations that an Article V Amendments convention will result in a full-blown “constitutional convention” or “con-con” are not correct.”

Any amendment to the U.S. Constitution must be ratified by 38 state legislatures. State legislators are far more likely to discover that the Article V process is the way to restore constitutional protections dismantled by a power-hungry Congress and a perfervidly imaginative Supreme Court rather than making it a threat to our liberties. This could be just the breakthrough mechanism that mobilized Americans are seeking to take power back from an overblown federal government.

Just a week ago the National Debt Relief Amendment passed the Oklahoma Senate under the prime sponsorship of state Sen. Steve Russell. Russell:

“If Congress were to author its own initiative to create a Balanced Budget Amendment they would craft it in ways to benefit themselves – full of loopholes. The idea of going to the state legislatures puts the control into the hands of all American people, and not just the urban coastal seaboards. It passed the Oklahoma Senate in bipartisan fashion. I was able to persuade my colleagues that the states have a legitimate Article V ability to call for this amendment without putting our constitutional rights at risk.”

Sen. Russell is a bona fide American hero who, while in the U.S. Army, many times put his life on the line to fight for our sacred rights. In 2003 Russell was acclaimed as one of the crucial leaders in the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein (as detailed in his compelling memoir, We Got Him!). He is not someone to trifle with.

The cowboy, Sen. Olafson, and the colonel, Sen. Russell, are joined by other legislator-patriots such as Rep. Brad Daw of Utah, who observes, “I was asked by a reporter if my NDRA was another one of the federalism bills being run and I responded with ‘No it is THE federalism bill. It is elegant, easy to understand and very popular.’” Ohio’s state Rep. Ron Maag says, “With the skyrocketing federal debt and the inability of the federal government to control this debt, the states need to take action. The NDRA is a crucial step in keeping our nation’s fiscal house in order.”

Restoring Freedom’s president, James Booth, sums up the opportunity presented by the movement to pass the National Debt Relief Amendment:

“The continued reliance upon debt will lead to a certain calamity that sensible people can no longer ignore, but the debt is nothing more than a single symptom of the disease that afflicts our country. The constitutionally defined federal government has become a national government. The term ‘federal’ reflected the limits imposed upon the central authority by a functioning federal republic, a republic based upon balancing power among the three pillars of national, state, and public power.”

American citizens will not stand idle while Washington places our children into debt bondage.

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