Skip Navigation

A Project of The Heartland Institute       

Site Search
Search this site only
Search Heartland.org

Why America Needs Constitutional Reform

Why America Needs Constitutional Reform

America is facing a constitutional crisis. Limits on the size and power of the national government intended by the Founding Fathers and placed in the Constitution have been violated repeatedly and with devastating consequences. The national government has grown to the point that it is now a clear and present danger to American life, liberty, and happiness.

The Impending Crisis

The national government currently faces a national debt of $18 trillion. National entitlement programs are all on paths to bankruptcy, some as soon as 2016. Many states and cities face their own impending financial cliffs as years of over-promising wages and benefits to public workers collide with chronic under-funding of public pension funds. Government debt is a “ticking time bomb” that threatens to destroy people’s savings, the economy, and America’s leadership in the world.

The regulatory state is similarly out of control. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual survey of the cost and reach of regulations, national regulation and intervention cost American consumers and businesses$1.88 trillion in 2014 in lost economic productivity and higher prices. Economy-wide regulatory costs amount to an average of $14,976 per household – around 29 percent of an average family budget of $51,100.

Why We Need Constitutional Reform

The U.S. Supreme Court and Congress are unable or unwilling to protect the Constitution from these assaults. It seems no power grab by the executive branch is too bold for a majority of Supreme Court justices to see as being beyond the scope of the Constitution, and Republican majorities in the House and Senate are no match for the executive authority of a president set on “transforming” America to fit a radical, even socialist, vision.

The strategy of confronting Leviathan issue-by- issue or program-by-program has failed to rein in total national government spending, borrowing, and regulating. While we rightly celebrate victories at the state level or blocking one or two national programs and repealing one or two regulations, countless other programs expand and regulations get enacted. We win some battles but we are clearly losing the war.

The root of the problem lies in the Constitution itself, a magnificent document without any doubt, “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.” But it is a document not immune to the contrivances of generations of men and women set on finding ways to evade its restrictions on their power, prestige, and access to the wealth of others. As Thomas Jefferson warned, “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild and government to gain ground.”

Repealing past amendments and convincing future Supreme Court justices to defend the written Constitution may not be possible, but other constitutional reforms can help repair the damage they have done. Until the damage is fixed, conservatives and libertarians will continue to win battles and lose the bigger war for freedom.

How to Reassert Constitutional Limits on the National Government

The Founding Fathers feared the national government might someday break the bonds contained in the Constitution and thoughtfully provided four ways states and citizens can reassert those limits. Citizens and state legislators can reassert constitutional limits on the national government by:

* Convincing members of Congress to approve joint resolutions to amend the Constitution. Three-fourths of the state legislatures must then approve a proposed amendment in order to achieve full ratification.

* Convening an Article V convention by having two-thirds of the states (34 state legislatures) apply for a convention and then convincing Congress to call it.

* Forming state compacts to refuse to implement national regulations and programs that exceed the powers delegated to the national government by the Constitution. The compact method can also be used to call an Article V convention.

* Asserting the right of states to nullify unconstitutional national laws. Nullification has been used to oppose federal policies in the areas of gun control, health care reform, and marijuana legalization.