Emmer column: Horse in a glue factory – Time for a Constitutional Convention

Vince Emmer

Remember Sheila Bair, one of the heroes of the financial crisis? She was perched atop a powerful regulator, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), before and during the financial crisis. She’s a smart cookie. As one of the few public officials who saw the financial crisis coming, she ruffled feathers to say so.

She’s a tough cookie, too. To apply discipline, she opposed bailing out the big banks. Now she sees the seeds of the next crisis growing, fueled by deficit spending.

“I don’t think Congress has a clue that the reason they have been able to get away with this profligacy is because we are the best-looking horse in the glue factory. But we are in the glue factory. Our fiscal situation is not a good one,” Bair said recently.

Political leaders at all levels of government have buried the average American household under debt between $600,000 and $800,000 per household, depending on how one measures them. Without an outright miracle, or an equally improbable stroke of good government, it is unpayable.

Public officials are so embarrassed, or ashamed that they cannot bring themselves to add up the numbers. Academics and others have to piece them together. It is easy to see why.

The public sector thinks of itself as a kind of protective god with the power to cure all ills, fix all wrongs, protect from all dangers. It thinks of itself as the best of governments, teaching the rest of the world how to govern most competently.

Yet here it is, unable and unwilling to control itself, abusing the young by heaping mountains of bills upon them.

Like Saint Augustine’s famous plea, “Lord, give me chastity, but not just yet,” public officials hope to outrun financial responsibility and retire before the debts catch up.

Today’s youth face the prospect of declining lifestyles. It will be tougher for minorities to make their way. Money will be tighter. Opportunity will shrivel. Fewer families will qualify for mortgages. Fewer businesses will start, fewer still will be profitable.

Tick tock, tick tock. It is entirely likely that an unthinkable event is approaching.

In the 1990s, it was unthinkable that vigilantes would be imposing the death penalty for blasphemy in Europe and the U.S. An unthinkable crisis struck in late 2008. Our most senior financial officials say we teetered on a knife-edge of another Great Depression.

The last presidential election was unthinkable, too. Obviously, we should be thinking about more unthinkable events.

A repeat financial crisis could well be much worse than that of 2008-2009. Our financial defenses are run down.

A serious crisis could turn the tide of humanity away from democracy. China’s authoritarian model would attract even more countries, fast growing countries at that.

Do we want to cripple social spending, cripple our defenses, cripple democracy?

No. American politicians of both parties habitually spend without thinking and borrow like they’re drinking.

Ordinary people like us are running on hamster wheels to earn a living. We must use our time wisely. Yet political activism is a big time suck with small odds of success.

Our political system stoutly defends itself against the “will of the people” with special interests, elected representatives that represent themselves, partisan tribalism and manipulative messaging.

It’s not game-over yet. We have a tool that will get their attention. It is a Constitutional amendment.

To claim a more meaningful share of political power for citizens, there is a movement calling for a Convention of the States to amend the Constitution for the 28th time.

The hurdles to enactment are high, yet the odds of success are high, too. This type of campaign panics the politicians to do the right thing through legislation.

Log on the Read their petition, sign it if you agree. I’d like to hear from you if you don’t. Send them some money. Every little bit helps.

As Sheila Bair says, we are a horse in a glue factory. Let’s restore that horse to health before our system dissolves into nothing more important than furniture adhesive.

Vince Emmer is a financial analyst in Gypsum. He runs Citizens Due Diligence after hours. Reach him at

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