Pushing for a Balanced Budget Amendment
Report by Betty Sakai
Often noticeably absent in the work of Conservatives are the young adults whose lives revolve around family, children, and work. Most in this generation will tell you they are just trying to get by and they don’t have time for politics. Jeff Utsch is of this generation. He is married with four young children. He’s accomplished and well versed in U.S. History and the U.S. Constitution. He is a founding member of the States United Balanced Budget Initiative in Arizona, a grass roots Arizona based 501c3 dedicated to supporting the Compact for America.
He is a contributor to talk radio in Tucson, Arizona. An aerospace engineer with a B.S. from the University of Arizona, for thirty two years he swam competitively and earned distinctions as NCAA All-American, and U.S. Olympics Trial Qualifier in 1984, 1988, and 1992. He is active as a swimming coach for Ventana Canyon. He was the University of Arizona Men’s Swim Team Captain, and today works as an instructor for U.S. Navy Seals and the U.S. Coast Guard as a Special Warfare Swimming Consultant.
Jeff understands the need for us to do the “best they can at home” in support of the U.S. military and Navy Seals doing their best abroad. He sees his calling “doing the best I can” as “teaching, enlisting, and converting” individuals and groups to support the work of www.CompactforAmerica.org working earnestly to pass the Balanced Budget Amendment. As Congress is not motivated to control its spending, Compact for America is showing the states and interested citizens how to work together to pass the Balanced Budget Amendment to force Congress to cap the federal debt. Once this Amendment is passed, Congress will be forced to make whatever changes they deem necessary to cap the debt and control the unfunded liabilities of unearned entitlements.
A balanced budget should not be a partisan issue. It is often misconstrued and misunderstood. As the Vice President for Educational Development for Compact for America, Jeff Utsch draws upon a lifetime of personal interest and study of U.S. History and the U.S. Constitution to inform and educate about what our founders intended. With skyrocketing federal debt considered the biggest threat to our national security, the unspoken terror of being forced to repay a mountain of debt depresses the drive of the younger generation whose freedom will be enslaved by the amount of time they are forced to work to pay down the national debt.
Jeff Utsch is unique in his generation because he understands the problem and knows what can be done to correct it. Asked by the Forum audience what they can do to help, Jeff asked that donations be made to the 501c3 organization, Compact for America Educational Foundation, Inc. to help pay expenses, that folks contact him and others at Compact For America to help them access groups of people and get states involved in the Balanced Budget Amendment process. Quoting from their website: “The Foundation is formed to educate elected officials, citizens, and residents of the United States of the use of an interstate compact agreement (a contract) and counterpart federal legislation to coordinate the use of Article V of the U.S. Constitution by state legislatures and the U.S. Congress to originate, propose and ratify Constitutional amendments. Accordingly, the Educational Foundation serves as a pro-bono technical advisor providing procedural guidance to various state legislators, compact commissioners, members of Congress, state governors, and interested citizens on matters related to the development, education, evaluation, enactment and implementation of related interstate compact agreements.”
Jeff Utsch’s upbringing provided discipline and encouragement for him to compete and win. His family came from the South and his parents ignited in him a love for U.S. History. He is uniquely qualified for what he is doing on many levels. He spends a lot of time researching history and the original founding documents, and he spends time with his children talking about history and the founding of this country over the dinner table each evening. He and his wife take their children to see the places where history was made.
Jeff has a deep understanding of who we are as a country. He reads the writings of Jefferson and Madison and all the others. He has read the Federalist Papers and studied the U.S. Constitution. Since the age of about 15 he has read at least an hour a day on the origin of this country. He believes in a Constitutional Convention of States but not a run-away Convention, believing that restraints must be placed on the delegates and what is discussed must be decided upon in advance by compacts (contracts) between the states. He added that compacts are not new because there are many compacts between states.
Introducing Jeff Utsch to the Forum, Vice President of Programs Joel Fine provided some facts about the national debt, noting that Ronald Reagan famously said in 1984 that he was not worried about the U.S. Debt, that the deficit was big enough to take care of itself. At that time it was a paltry 1.5 trillion dollars. During the first two years of the Obama Presidency the deficit grew by more than 1.5 trillion dollars each year. In 2008 Obama used the words “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic” to describe the massive deficit spending during the Bush years. Thanks to both parties, the national debt is now on a trajectory that threatens the viability of the United States economy.
Jeff implored his audience to consider whether freedom and the opportunities that freedom provides are more important than convenience and comfort. Are we willing to do what it takes to secure and maintain our freedom? He offers seminars on “What Does It Mean To Be an American” and teaches classes on the U.S. Constitution. He is a valued leader in the Boy Scouts of America and is on the Board of the Naval Special Warfare Foundation.
When 9-11 happened, Jeff happened to be with the Seal Team who eventually took out the bad guys. The Seals he said knew it was “game on” at that time. Jeff is not a Seal and did not feel on equal footing with the Seals. Feeling a need to do something, in a conversation with a Navy Seal named Jimmy who had returned from deployment, Jeff asked, “What can I do here at home?” Jimmy answered, “Do your best”. The answer lead him to understand that there is a Seal Foundation to help those guys and the families of Seals who do not return. So Jeff helped raise money for the Seal Foundation. This taught Jeff to understand that we need to maintain our freedom here at home or otherwise what value are the battles won by Seals?
Reading everything he could find written by Abraham Lincoln, Jeff summarized Lincolns’ definition of slavery as “when one man consistently eats the bread of another man’s labor without his consent”. If you are in a state of servitude or slavery, do you have your freedom? No, you do not. Do you think you can reach your full potential? No, you cannot. Can you do your best? No, you cannot. You might do as best you can but you cannot reach your full potential without your freedom, Jeff admonished.
Before the Declaration of Independence when John Adams attended the debates on whether we should become independent or not, Adams became more forceful. Hamilton was making an argument to the anti-Federalists that they were never going to want to get involved in our domestic affairs. In the 85th Federalist Papers, Hamilton wrote that even if you are right and we get a runaway federal government, we have given you Article 5. This is what the founders intended. When he read this, Jeff Utsch at age 17 realized that the balance of states and the federal government was off.
Exampling the futility of not using the tools given to you, Jeff told a story of growing up in the South. His job was to mow five acres of lawn during the hot and humid days of summer. It took him so long the grass began to grow again. His father bought a very expensive ride-on power mower and Jeff knew he would get punished if something happened to that mower so he did not use it. His father asked him, “Son, are you stupid? Why don’t you use the tool provided?” This led Jeff to understand that the states and their citizens must use the tool provided by the founders, Article V.
Madison said, “No Constitution, No United States of America”. As good as the Constitution is, it’s only a piece of paper. What breathed life into the Constitution was the ratification debates. Patrick Henry got up and chastised everybody in the room. He said, “I hear a lot about being more powerful among nations but where is the call of liberty? Where is the spirit of 1776?”
The best – the greatest—way to get our liberty back is by imposing spending limits on the federal government, by using the tools our founders have given us, by trying to eliminate as many concerns as possible, but understanding that as Americans we value our freedom and opportunity more that those other things. We need to understand what Jefferson said, “Fear is not an American trait”. The federal government is out of control. Our forefathers gave us the tools to reign in the federal government. Ronald Reagan said, “The Federal Government will not do it. The States must”. Our federal government is out of control. We owe it to our forefathers, our children, and those who fight for us to reign in this spending. The Compact for America is endorsed by George Will, Judge Napolitano of Fox News, Alan West, Grover Norquist, and the list keeps growing. Mississippi just passed it through the House and Senate. Georgia, Alaska, So. Dakota will pass soon as will Wyoming and Arkansas.
38 Compact member States are needed to activate the process. In a meeting with Grover Norquist, it was revealed that much progress has been made. The Legislature in West Virginia for the first time in 83 years went from Democrat to Republican. Although a balanced budget amendment should not be a partisan issue, there is more support in the conservative states. There are 24 states that are Red in Governor and both houses. Only 8 states are Blue in governor and both houses. About 90% of the people Jeff Utsch talks to are supportive.
There are rumors going around that there are 30 states already on board for a Constitutional Convention. But if one reads what each state wants, they note “We will support a Balanced Budget Amendment if certain things are included”. The individual states must talk to each other. The compact starts with a coalition between the states. The states should be talking. This Convention is different that a Convention of States because the delegates are restricted by the authority given them by their state. The Compact for States is not an open Constitutional Convention but designed to ratify a specific amendment.
During the Q & A Session, Jeff was asked if he is prepared for the inevitable, for Democrats and the Media to turn this into a political issue? He answered he would like to do what is right and let the consequence follow, but we have to do it in a smart way. We must take the issue from a political issue to a moral issue. We must focus on our children and the preservation of our Republic. This is a moral issue, not a political issue. It is our time to step up. The messaging must be right. During the founding debates, there were the Colonists and the Torres. The Torres were Loyalists (Colonists who benefited financially by being loyal to Britain). The Colonists changed the description of the Loyalists to “Enemies of Liberty”. We need to simply the message and call out the troops.
Jeff was asked how the deficit and debt threaten our liberty. Time is what our freedom is about, he said. The more time we spend paying for national debt is less time we are not working to further our own interests. Jefferson wrote “British Rights in Colonial America”. He cited the Colonist’s argument as those who conquered the land and created the wealth. Britain said, “You did not do that. We provided the Red Coats. We give you the ships to transport stuff.” In order words, you did not build that. Sound familiar?
What can be done to eliminate the “share the wealth tax system” that we now have in the United States? Jeff answered that the greatest, most critical question of our era our founders already understood. Natural law is something we have to rediscover. What is the proper role of government? The second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence is good to read as is Madison’s essay on freedom and property. We have gone to the other side to fulfill our wants and needs. The founders would have laughed and asked, “What have you done with your inheritance?”
Given the extent that the current government eviscerates the laws on the books, how can we cause government to uphold a Constitutional Balance Budget Amendment? Jeff replied: We have to use every tool in the shed before we do anything else. There is a natural law that one loves that which one sacrifices for – for our children, for our country. If the people of this country get together, sacrifice and demand that we have a Balanced Budget Amendment and if the government does not do it, then there will be a revolution. Jeff believes government will do it because they will understand that we are fed up. Washington said to La Fayette that it is a shame that the people must feel before they think.
Given the fact that since the 18th century the movement has been toward a more progressive government, isn’t there a risk that the ratification of an amendment will go toward a more progressive direction? Jeff answered: Even if the Convention is a runaway, it still has to go through the states to be ratified.
How does the Federal Reserve and the national currency relate to this? This does not change the money system. It caps the federal debt at 105%. A balanced budget on gross national product, or on wealth, or on population are long and can be gamed by changing definitions. For example, they changed the definition of the GNP just last year. With a Balanced Budget Amendment, whatever comes in is what you have to work with. If the federal government wants to exceed the debt limit, twenty-six states would have to agree, such as might happen during a time of war for example. In effect, the states become the Board of Directors.
How would unfunded liabilities enter into the equation? The 14th Amendment Section 4 defines debt of the United States. Debt has to be paid. Unfunded liabilities and unearned entitlements do not have to be paid. Each Congress has to live with its budget and cannot bind future Congresses.
70% of the American people understand the need for a balanced budget. What is not well understood is that the states are the parents and the federal government is the off-spring. It’s time to force the federal government to be less unruly. Jeff then encouraged the Forum audience to support the Congressman who is presenting Balanced Budget legislation in Congress right now. He ended his presentation by saying that we need to become ‘Citizen Seals’, to do everything we can internally to match what Seals do externally. The Forum thanked Jeff Utsch for a job well done with standing applause.
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