Yes, the long-run has arrived: annual interest on national debt pushing half a trillion dollars

Yesterday the Heritage Foundation announced the milestone of 1,000 days without a federal budget. Along with a video, reposted below, the writer Mike Brownfield noted more than $200 billion in annual interest payments. If only.

Robert Thorpe, author of Reclaim Liberty: 3-Step Plan for Restoring our Constitutional Government, has written an open letter correcting the number. He acknowledges that it is somewhat true; it is more than $200 billion per year.

In fact, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, in 2011 it was closer to $454.4 billion. Please see:… In that the true amount is almost double of what Heritage reported, and is actually approaching one-half of a trillion dollars annually, it is very important, and would be truly sobering for our citizens, if Heritage set the record straight and publically revised its statement:

It bears repeating again. 2011 National Debt Interest Paid: $454,393,280,417.03.

Thorpe is a proponent of a state-led, Article V amendments convention for some form of balanced budget amendment, as am I. Of course, one would still have to decide what needs to be done to close the fiscal deficit at the federal level, but it would impose some accountability towards that outcome. I encourage people to read this commentary from him on the matter:

The States Must Lead Our Nation Back from the Brink

By Robert J. Thorpe

Irresponsible and Unpatriotic

On July 3, 2008 candidate Obama said that it was “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic” that President George W. Bush had added $4 Trillion of new debt in 96 months to our nation… and I agree. But then, President Obama went on to add that same amount of additional new debt ($4 Trillion) in one third the amount of time… in only 31 months.

Thanks to the Tea Parties and other concerned pro-Constitutional groups, we had a revolution of landslide victories in November 2010, electing scores of very fine, fiscally conservative people in local, state and national elections. Unfortunately, their attempts at slowing Washington borrowing, spending and growth has been minimal at best, and perhaps even disastrous in light of our high unemployment, dismal economy and mounting national debts.

Gallup and other polls report that 70% of the American people want some type of balance budget amendment (BBA) or borrowing / spending restrictions placed upon the federal government, similar to the fiscal requirements that 49 of our 50 states operate under. But during the past forty plus years, congress has refused to pass any meaningful financial restrictions upon itself. Congress is unwilling to give up their unlimited power to borrow and spend… an important authority that Washington insiders use freely for staying in political office for life. It is politically much easier to quietly borrow money, that future generations will have to pay back, then it is to raise taxes.

Washington can no more be expected to change and restrain itself, than an addict can be expected to cure their own addictions. We need to turn to our Constitution, and to the words of our Founders, to instruct us in truly changing “business as usual” within Washington:

James Madison, in Federalist No. 43, wrote about how proposing amendments is equally shared between congress and the states, and how it should be used to correct errors in our government and Constitution “It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.”

Alexander Hamilton, in the Federalist No. 85, wrote about how state legislatures should be trusted to hold back an out-of-control central government: We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.”

In 1788, George Washington wrote that the “constitutional door is open for such amendments as shall be thought necessary by nine States” [or two-thirds of the original thirteen.]

John Dickinson, in the “Fabius” essays, warned the states about negative consequences if they did not use their authority to restrain an overbearing federal government “It will be their own faults, if the several States suffer the federal sovereignty to interfere in the things of their respective jurisdictions.”

Either Congress or the States can Propose Amendments

Our Founders encouraged the states to use their Constitutional authority to propose amendments. This is an important check-and-balance that needs to be used in order to safeguard shared Federalism between the states and the federal government, to counter a wayward or abusive central government, and to derail runaway congresses.

A Constitutional amendment is a powerful legal mandate, and yet, in over 200-years, only congress has proposed amendments. You cannot imagine what our Founders would say if they saw the current state of our union: a distant dominant central authority, vast numbers of citizens addicted to expensive government programs and handouts, and inconceivable spending and massive debts.

In their disbelief, our Founders would no doubt admonish the people and states by saying “We gave you the ability to solve these problems. After two centuries, why have you not used your Constitutional authority to restrain and correct congress and the central government, forcing them to behave? It is your own fault… for far, far too long, you have passively endured these many tyrannies!”

In over 200-years, the states have never helped their citizens or nation by fully using their Constitutional authority to propose amendments, such as a federal Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) or congressional term limits. Instead, they have all but surrendered this powerful Constitutional authority (and their Federalism) in submission to congress.

America Faces Economic Destruction

America now faces one of its darkest hours, with a Greek-like national debt that equals our annual GDP (Gross Domestic Product), and a first ever credit rating downgrade. Borrowing and spending fifty cents of debt in addition to every tax dollar collected, the federal government must borrow money in order just to pay its interest payments on the money it has already borrowed, with absolutely no attempt at paying-down or reversing our massive, snowballing debts. Our national debt exceeds $15 Trillion (not including future entitlements), and our borrowing and interest payments are increasing at a rate of $58,000 per second.

Can You Imagine

Can you imagine, for a moment, what our nation would be like if we were free of debt, free from our $450+ Billion in annual interest payments? Where our federal government was small and limited, and behaved as the fiduciary agent that our Constitution requires. And where our leaders were actually restrained by their enumerated powers. In this alternate reality, our nation, citizens and future generations would enjoy an era of prolonged growth and prosperity, a venerable new age for our great land. But based upon congress’ dismal track record, the reality of this utopia is unlikely.

What is Stopping the States?

What or who is stopping the states from using their Constitutional authority, given to them by our Founders, to propose important amendments that would rein-in Washington? Well, there are some folks, even within our Tea Parties, who do everything in their power to scare our state legislators from using this important Constitutional authority. They claim that the state’s use of an Article V “convention for proposing amendments” would somehow spiral out of control into a runaway concon (Constitutional Convention), something that has never happened in the past two hundred years.

I believe that these folks love America, but that they simply have not done the research or fully understand our nation’s history. The myth of a runaway convention started in the 1960s by far left liberal colleagues of Robert Kennedy. They were afraid that the states might use their Article V Constitutional authority to propose amendments that would overturn the liberal rulings of activist judges. This liberal lie is completely untrue and without historic merit, and it harms our nation when it is used to scare the states from using their Constitutional authority, even if it could help our nation and her citizens.

Conventions Should Not be Feared

A convention is nothing more than a meeting, a drafting body, called to address a specific problem. Hundreds, possibly thousands of conventions have been used throughout our nation’s history to solve problems and to establish charters and state constitutions. Only one Constitutional Convention has ever occurred in our nation’s long history. It was held in Philadelphia in 1787 when our Constitution was drafted, with General George Washington serving as the president of the convention… and it was not a “runaway.”

In addition to our Constitutional Convention, we have now located and documented the historic minutes (or meeting notes) of 12 other successful interstate or federal conventions that also occurred during our nation’s Founding-Era. These historic records answer the questions about how conventions operated, how rules were established, how delegates and officers were selected, etc.

None of these conventions exceeded their mandates or became a “runaway”, and they included:

1. The Albany Congress (1754)

2. The First Continental Congress (Philadelphia, 1774) (The Second and Confederation

Congresses were not conventions but legislatures)

3. The First Providence Convention (1776-77)

4. The York Town Convention (1777)

5. The Springfield Convention (1777)

6. The New Haven Convention (1778)

7. The First Hartford Convention (1779)

8. The Philadelphia [“Price”] Convention (1780)

9. The Boston Convention (1780)

10. The Second Hartford Convention (1780) (The Hartford Convention of 1814-15 was a different creature, and sufficient records were not kept.)

11. The Second Providence Convention (1781)

12. The Annapolis Convention (1786)

Lastly, there is a list of eleven (11) questions that the opponents of a “convention for proposing amendments” have circulated. They feel that these eleven questions cannot be answered, but based upon the historic record and the meeting notes from past conventions, you can Click Here to read both the eleven unanswerable questions… and their historic answers.

Checks-and-Balances Protect Our Constitution

Each delegate of a “convention for proposing amendments” will take a state oath, swearing to follow the instructions given to them by their state, and to stick to the limited topic of, or the reason why the states had applied to congress for the convention in the first place.

If a delegate decided to sacrifice their honor, credibility and political future by violating their oath and state instructions, their state legislatures would simply recall and replace the delegate, who may then also face legal repercussions for violating their state oath. But if a delegate was somehow able to continue unchallenged, and they proposed crazy, unconstitutional amendment(s), they would then have to convince perhaps hundreds of other delegates to vote in favor of those crazy, unconstitutional amendment(s), which is extremely unlikely.

And if the delegate was able to somehow convince their fellow state delegates, and those from the other states, to vote for and pass the crazy, unconstitutional amendment(s), then a minimum of 38 states would have to agree to ratify the crazy, unconstitutional amendment(s), which simply would not happen.

Checks-and-balances, like these, operate throughout our system of government, keeping our leaders from doing foolish and unlawful things.

Washington Will Simply Not Reform Itself

Washington has a proven track record of its inability to reform itself, so this important work is left to the American people and to their legislatures, to fundamentally change the course of our floundering ship of state. The Constitution provides us with the tools and the required authority. All that is lacking… is our resolve.

Ronald Reagan said “I think most of you know how badly out of control Federal spending has gotten in recent years. That’s why I’m one of those Americans who has always believed a constitutional amendment mandating that Congress balance the budget is the answer to what ails us. It [Balanced Budget Amendment] must prevail because if it does not, the free society we have known for two hundred years, the ideal of a government by consent of the governed will simply cease to exist.”

I place my trust in our Constitution, and in my local state legislators who I know will do the right thing. I fear our “runaway U.S. Congress” ten-thousand times more than I fear a fictitious runaway convention, which has never occurred in our nation’s long history.

Please contact your state legislators and encourage them to use their Article V Constitutional authority to propose amendment(s) that will rein-in Washington and its decades of fiscal abuses. We can no longer allow our president and congress to bankrupt our nation, and forever indebt our future generations.

May God bless you and Our Great Nation.


Robert J. Thorpe

Co-founder, Balanced Budget Amendment Taskforce and an Arizona Tea Party Vice President

[email protected]

Robert J. Thorpe is a former UCLA Ext. instructor, a Constitutional lecturer, researcher and author of Reclaim Liberty: 3-Step Plan for Restoring our Constitutional Government. Thorpe is a member of a national team of Constitutional scholars, academics, experts, and lawmakers who volunteer their time assisting state legislators by promoting Constitutional education, solutions, and several important amendments including a federal Balanced Budget Amendment.

Fergus Hodgson

Director of fiscal policy studies at the John Locke Foundation, policy advisor with The Future of Freedom Foundation, and host of The Sta...

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