Imagine if the U.S. Constitution barred the EPA and Department of Education from existing. All union protections are dead, there are no more federal workplace safety standards, and even child-labor laws are struck down, along with a national minimum wage.
Imagine that the Constitution makes it illegal for the federal government to protect you from big polluters, big banks and even big food and pharma -- all are free to rip you off or poison you all they want, and your only remedy is in state courts and legislatures, because the Constitution prevents Congress from doing anything about any of it. The federal government can't even enforce voting or civil rights laws.
To add injury to insult, the federal government has to shut down Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, because all of these programs (along with food stamps, housing supports and any programs that help the middle class, the less fortunate or disabled) are "beyond the reach" of what the federal government can do.
A few years ago, it would have been a thought experiment; now it's nearly reality. Billionaires and the groups they fund are working to rewrite our Constitution to provide corporations and the rich with more and more protections and benefits, and chop away at anything smelling of "socialism" like Social Security or child labor laws.
The fact is that they're just a few states away from meeting their goal, and have already held dress rehearsals in Washington D.C. -- with representatives from all 50 states -- for a Constitutional Convention that would change America forever.
The Constitution (arguably) provides for three ways to change or amend itself. The first is that Congress can propose a constitutional amendment, pass it with a super-majority in both houses, and have three-quarters of the states ratify it. This is the way it's been done for every one of the existing 27 amendments.
The second strategy is done by using Article 5 of the Constitution and driving the process up from the states. The easiest way to do this is for three-quarters of the states to legislatively approve (with majority votes in each state) an amendment, in which case Congress is unnecessary and upon ratification by the 38th state, it becomes a permanent amendment to the Constitution.
While this strategy has never been used, it's why many of the good government groups like Move To Amend and Public Citizen are pushing for a "Corporations are not people, and money is not speech" amendment.
The third -- and incredibly dangerous -- strategy to amend the Constitution is to simply call a "Convention of the States," again using Article 5, and open the entire document itself up to rewriting and tinkering through the brute-force method of multiple amendments that can effectively rewrite any part of the Constitution.
This third strategy is the one being used right now, as you're reading these words, in a very well-funded effort by right-wing oligarchs. If they can pull it off in the states (where it's cheaper to buy politicians), then Congress, the president and even the courts would have no say over it.
Their goal appears to be to put into the Constitution specific prohibitions against any programs (from Social Security to Medicare to food stamps) that they've always viewed as "unconstitutional socialism," and to permanently enshrine in the Constitution the "right" of corporations and billionaires to own politicians and spend unlimited monies to influence elections and ballot measures. It would effectively turn America into a feudal state owned by the people FDR called the "economic royalists."
The group leading this charge is called Citizens for Self-Governance, which SourceWatch.org says, "is a right-wing political organization tied to Eric O'Keefe that is campaigning for an Article V convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. Through its 'Convention of States' project, CSG promotes an effort to amend the U.S. Constitution pursuant to Article V, which provides that thirty-four states (two-thirds) can trigger a convention to propose an amendment, which must then be ratified by 38 states (three-fourths)."
They add, "CSG director Eric O'Keefe has deep ties to Charles and David Koch and has been a founder and funder of numerous right-wing groups including Wisconsin Club for Growth," and the CSG, "through its Convention of States project, is pushing for a constitutional convention in order to severely restrict federal power, for example by redefining the Commerce Clause to prohibit Congress from enacting child labor or anti-discrimination laws, or by adding a balanced budget requirement."
And they're actually doing it. As Wikipedia notes,
"In December 2013, nearly 100 legislators from 32 states met at Mount Vernon to talk about how to call a convention of states. ... In February 2014, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn announced that after his retirement from Congress, he would focus on promoting the Convention of States to state legislatures.