We’re surprised that a conservative like Tom Coburn would thump the tub for a constitutional convention, because it’s such a waste of money. It’s also a bum idea.
Coburn, a former U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, was in Topeka this spring urging the Legislature to join other states demanding that Congress call a convention to limit the power of an “out-of-control” federal government (and adopt a balanced budget amendment).
The convention is championed as a means of saving tax dollars. Changing the constitution won’t do that. An amendment to limit revenues to the state and local governments simply means temporary chaos in public services and subsequent scrambling for ways to get around the rule. The current mess in Topeka is a fine example.
If we’re so gung-ho about changing the constitution to limit spending, we don’t need the expense and hysteria of a convention. Spending begins with appropriations bills, a procedure that the Congress – and our Legislature – know well enough. Coburn and others, including our governor, can’t stand it when the courts step in to tell legislators or a governor that they’ve gone out of bounds, that they haven’t spent enough money on, say, schools or programs for the sick or infirm.
A principal objection to the constitutional convention is that it opens the gate to a flood of amendments from interest groups. We’re not so fearful that they will succeed, but they are bound to mess up the proceedings and cause new divisions among the citizenry.
We should junk the constitutional convention before too many people take the idea seriously. We don’t need it. Budgetary goals can be reached by more orderly proceedings, if legislators or the Congress can muster the will. The threat of tampering with our basic law is real, and a convention costs more money than we need spend.