Former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn says Republicans and Democrats in Washington will never make the hard choices to rein in runaway spending and debt, so a constitutionally prescribed Convention of the States is the only possible remedy.
Coburn is a physician who was elected to three terms in the House of Representatives and two-terms in the U.S. Senate. He developed a reputation for attacking wasteful spending and the federal government’s habit of growing beyond its constitutional limits.
Now Coburn is a leading voice for calling a Convention of the States. It’s a provision contained in Article V for amending the constitution. In addition to Congress approving amendments and passing them on to the states for ratification, two-thirds of the states can demand a convention to debate and adopt proposed amendment. In both instances, three-quarters of the states must approve the amendments for them to be ratified.
“Having served 16 years in Washington, I see no other solution. It doesn’t matter who’s in charge. I see no other solution to returning the liberty and independent thought and freedom that is ours by starting to limit the role of the federal government.
“Remember, the enumerated powers were very specific and the federal government has now just abandoned that. The consequence is that 60 percent of every state budget, on average, is not controlled by their legislature. It’s controlled by the bureaucrats in Washington,” said Coburn.
Coburn says the founders never wanted the federal government to have the power. The states were expected to wield most of the power but events like the 17th amendment grew the centralized power of the government in Washington. The founders wanted state legislatures to elect senators. The 17th amendment changed that to allow voters to do it.
Coburn says a Convention of the States could convene so long as a narrow area of discussion were established ahead of time. He would like to see amendments passed that mandate a balanced federal budget and would require two-thirds of the states to approve any significant borrowing by the federal government.
He says neither party is interested in making hard decisions because members on both sides are focused on getting elected – supposedly to do the most good.
“The fact is they spend all their time getting re-elected rather than doing some good,” said Coburn.
He says half our deficit could be wiped out by addressing waste, fraud, and abuse in various programs, and by killing duplicative programs. Coburn pointed to 41 federal job training programs, none of which met their goals.
Listen to the full podcast to Coburn’s extended assessment of government and our dire fiscal health. He also explains the very simple ways to improve our health care system and greatly reduce costs.