A constitutional fact check can guide Americans toward the truth
There are many major current policy issues of concern to the American people that relate to the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, not enough Americans, including elected officials, are as knowledgeable as they should be about our nation’s governing document.
Unfortunately, there has also been a lot of disinformation and misinformation regarding some of these issues — particularly when it comes to fiscal and federal responsibilities. The following are just a few recent fact-based examples.
- According to several legal interpretations of the Constitution, the federal government is responsible for border security, not the states. Current administration policies have resulted in record levels of illegal immigration and drug importation, especially fentanyl. The administration’s assertion that the border is closed and secure is an insult to the intelligence of the average American. Failure to secure the border has serious adverse economic, national security, public health and public safety impacts. The recent movement of immigrants to other cities and states beyond the border is causing others to wake up to the need to achieve border security now and comprehensive immigration reform soon.
- Under the Constitution, the Supreme Court is the final authority on constitutional matters. The recent Supreme Court abortion decision did not make that procedure illegal in any state. The court determined that the right to an abortion is not protected by the Constitution, and it is a matter that should be left to the states. Some states will have more restrictions than others and some will have fewer if any, restrictions. I doubt any state is likely to ban all abortions. In addition, the so-called “morning after” pill is available on a non-prescription basis throughout the country.
- While it is not addressed in the Constitution, climate change is real, and humankind contributes to it. However, our top priority needs to be energy independence, now and forever, with a more realistic transition plan to alternative energy sources. We also need to recognize that this is a global challenge that can only be addressed with a comprehensive and enforceable plan that spans the world. The energy challenges being experienced in Europe and California should serve as a warning sign for those who want the U.S. to go too far, too fast.
- There are no current constitutional protections against fiscal irresponsibility at the federal level. Contrary to their assertions, the Biden administration has continued the trend of fiscal irresponsibility that accelerated in 2003. President Biden has promoted and signed legislation that has increased federal spending by about $4 trillion over 10 years, including the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that was a major contributor to today’s excess inflation (i.e., 8.3 percent in August 2022 up from 1.4 percent in January 2021). The primary reason the deficit has fallen in the current fiscal year is that Congress did not pass another inflation-stimulating American Rescue Plan.
- Total federal debt as a percentage of the economy has hit record levels and is rising rapidly. I have calculated that total federal liabilities and unfunded promises exceeded a record $110 trillion as of Sept. 30, 2021, and rising. Mounting debt burdens and rising interest rates mean that interest expense is projected to exceed total national security spending within 10 years. Most recently, the president has proposed to forgive hundreds of billions in student loans which is not just inequitable and fiscally irresponsible, it may be unconstitutional. This is hardly a record of fiscal responsibility.
- Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) reform plan is his personal plan, not a GOP plan. While Social Security and Medicare are not guaranteed by the Constitution, no major political party supports ending these important social insurance programs. However, these programs had over $70 trillion in unfunded obligations for a 75-year period as of Sept. 30, 2021, and the related trust funds are projected to go to zero in 2034 and 2028, respectively. Despite these facts, Congress is doing nothing to ensure the solvency and sustainability of these programs.
- A state-led and citizen-ratified Fiscal Responsibility Amendment achieved through Article V of the Constitution is needed. The amendment should be designed to constrain debt as a percentage of the economy to a reasonable and sustainable level. Such an amendment would force Congress to reform these programs and restore overall fiscal sanity and sustainability while combating excess inflation. That is what House Concurrent Resolution 101 is designed to do.
As a political independent, a presidential appointee of Reagan, Bush (41), and Clinton, an accountability professional, and a fact-based and results-oriented person, I make it a point to watch and listen to several news outlets. Sadly, the vast majority are slanted in their reporting. We have too many “fact-free zones” in the media and too many ideological and partisan opinions being expressed. Politicians and media outlets need to treat the American people with respect. Americans need to obtain information from a variety of sources and do their homework.
Providing the facts with contextual sophistication followed by honest discussion and debate from a variety of perspectives is the best way to inform the public and restore trust and confidence in government and the media. We need to do both.
David M. Walker is the former U.S. comptroller general and co-founder of the Federal Fiscal Sustainability Foundation.