Why regulating Wall Street isn’t enough

From Byron DeLear, author, lecturer, former US Congressional Candidate in Missouri and co-founder of Friends of Article V Convention.

Our Founding Fathers were all about preventing tyranny as they were throwing off the yoke of the British Empire; the despotism of Crown and Church, they could see it a million miles away and designed our government to prevent it.

Their remedy? Checks-and-balances, compartments of government self-regulated through inter-agency skepticism and scrutiny.

Given the recent Wall Street bailouts in the amount of trillions upon trillions, deficit spending and skyrocketing debt, it seems as if an important protection to help Washington be more accountable is missing from the Founder’s design. But it isn’t. It just hasn’t been used.

A consensus has emerged on how to fix the rules in our broken financial system – Regulation. This response to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression sees the deregulation that had occurred in the banking and mortgage industry – combined with good ol’ fashioned greed – as the primary cause of the collapse. It follows then, that by restoring key corporate oversight, a future economic meltdown will be averted. Only regulating Wall Street won’t be enough.

Wall Street had a silent partner in creating this mess: Washington, DC. Without the collusion between Wall Street and Washington, this debacle wouldn’t have been possible. The lobbyist driven repeal of important protections such as the Glass Steagall Act in 1999 or the unregulated mania of corporations like AIG, Bear Stearns or Lehman would never have occurred without a complicit Congress, essentially bribed to be asleep at the switch. We have witnessed, quite literally, the ‘Enron-nization’ of the American economy.

In our nation’s history, the Federal government has offered top-down guidance to the States. Sometimes in the form of a moral check-and-balance as in the case of women’s voting rights or guaranteeing African-Americans entry into schools in the South. America became stronger through these interventions. But the reverse, a restraining check-and-balance to an excessive Federal government, is also necessary. When Washington has grown beyond its means, overreaching and incapable of self-correction, the people must intervene.

This was the purpose of the convention clause of Article V of the US Constitution, to give the people an opportunity to offer solutions to a recalcitrant Congress unwilling or unable to act. When corruption has become institutionalized into the Federal government, the States can petition for a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution, a process occurring outside of Washington, bypassing the entrenched corruption. Before becoming law, amendments would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the States, eliminating any extreme or radical proposals.

But ideas like a Balanced Budget Amendment, which would help to root out abuse and cronyism inherent in the system today, could be introduced and seriously debated through our nation’s first Article V Convention. Delegates would assemble, C-SPAN would cover it, we would all get educated a little more and our representative democracy reinvigorated. There is a critical reason why the convention clause exists, and the Framer’s put it there not to be ignored, but to provide a “peaceful alternative to a violent revolt” during times of strong popular frustration with the Federal government.

Constitutional scholars believe we have been denied our right to a convention. To date, there have been 754 valid applications from all 50 States for an Article V Convention that have hit the doorstep of Congress, far surpassing the two-thirds threshold needed (34). The research documenting these applications was completed last year by an intrepid non-partisan group of legal experts, a retired Michigan Supreme Court Justice and impassioned citizens from every State. The Friends of Article V Convention (FOAVC.org) assert that Congress has not only failed in its non-discretionary duty to issue the call, but is purposefully quashing the convention as a perceived (and real) threat to its power.

Aside from the partisan polemics surrounding the recent Tea Parties, it’s clear that millions of Americans of all political stripes are voicing deep concerns for the future of our country. They see the massive influence of lobbying power, industries writing their own laws, shameless earmark abuse and trillion dollar bailouts as the symptoms of a broken system.

President Eisenhower once remarked about Article V,

“Through their state legislatures and without regard to the federal government, the people can demand a convention to propose amendments that can and will reverse any trends they see as fatal to true representative government.”

It may be time to finally heed the original design our Founding Fathers built into the law of the land for just such an occasion – they did have a couple things right after all.

Byron can be reached at: ByronDeLear@gmail.com


  1. Eh, it still doesn’t address the same old problems with states’ rights. Folks love to talk big about states’ rights, but these kinds of conventions aren’t used to give everyone a tax cut or subsidize XBox and ice cream, they’re used on vicious human rights violations like targeting minorities (Jim Crow, anyone?). Sure, the conversation always starts with Washington overreaching and bailing out crooks, but it will swiftly reveal itself as a powerful opportunity for immigration opponents and anti-LGBT crusaders to undermine the equality and liberty mandated by the federal government.

    As a liberal, I look forward to crushing these pathetic “sovereign citizen” movements and the racist horse they rode in on. 😉

  2. Dear Liberal ~ There is a protection built-in to Article V to prevent any radical proposals that you suggest could happen. Radical proposals would be non-starters. This is part of a reply I wrote on Show Me Progress, an excellent progressive blog in Missouri (ShowMeProgress.com) — Byron

    The 3/4ths ratification process.. (0.00 / 0)

    …precisely addresses your concern. To have all the States move in unison (75% support) would be virtually impossible and only possible unless the amendment being considered was common sense, so straight ahead, and non-partisan in nature. The problem you identify about special interest groups with deep pockets exactly describes the corruption in Washington today — the convention clause does not compound the issue, it is the remedy (and the control of those same special interests is why the convention hasn’t been called).

    Article V states,

    The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof…

    If you have been witness or have had any direct political experience in trying to achieve this high of voting threshold, you would know that the 3/4th voting requirement acts as a firewall to block any hacking of the Constitution by extreme or radical proposals.

    A further protection is seen in the fact that this 3/4ths voting threshold does not apply to only one legislative body, but rather in the 50 separate State legislatures — clearly making any extreme left or right ideas non-starters.

    To subscribe to the notion that an amendatory convention — as outlined in Article V – would make for a runaway convention hijacked by all sorts of quackery, is ignoring the built in protection designed by the Framers to avert any such radicalism; over-politicizing any aspect of any amendment essentially renders these ideas moot.

    This then leaves the question, what good could an Article V Convention achieve, if it is designed to be so extraordinarily ‘centrist’ in its political disposition?

    Well, there’s where the proof’s in the pudding. An Article V Convention, as a fundamental check-and-balance designed into our Constitution, does not play in the Right/Left political paradigm, but rather, it deals with the Top/Down nature of the Federal Government powers above, as contrasted with the Several States below.

    To wit, there are many aspects of Washington DC that have grown beyond their means, lobbyist power, politicians running up deficits in an out-of-control fashion – these faults are many and too numerous to mention.

    The Convention clause of Article V that’s already been triggered does indeed contend with a runaway – although it is not a runaway convention – it’s the runaway train of Federal Government penetrating into an unknown realm of limitless debt and corruption never seen before; a runaway Washington sans ability to self-correct or exhibit any sense of moderation or self-control.

    Don’t be afraid of this fundamental right, many of our most respected Statesmen were not — it’s time for our nation to put the brakes on, and Article V is the push pedal. Don’t believe it? Check it out for yourself: http://www.foavc.org

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