Monday, June 29, 2015

An Impetus For Reform

While federalism and the rule of plain language law took a giant step backward with the Supreme Court's Rulings in the #SCOTUScare and #SCOTUSmarriage cases last week, I think those of us that seek to restore order and good governance can use these cases as a call to action.

All of this revolves around an Article Five Convention of States as outlined in the Constitution of the United States. I know the idea makes some folks' heads hurt, but follow along.

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, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
Because the elected Congress critters(is my disdain showing?) in Washington, DC show no original thought(there are a few exceptions, but a majority is needed), we, as a self governing people, need to take it upon ourselves to make true national reform happen. I know there are rogue state houses, like Nebraska, that openly defy the will of the people(see here), but the people still have recourse at the state level with ballot initiatives and recall processes. 
The only recourse at the national level is the ballot box. The ballot box at the national congressional level has shown to be ineffective when it comes to reigning in a government bent on usurping the rights of individuals and the states in which they reside to self govern. Lawmakers don't see their election as a chance to serve, rather they see it as a chance to lord over a dominion, accumulate power and pad their nest egg. The government in Washington, DC is no longer what Abraham Lincoln so eloquently stated in the emancipation proclamation, "government of people, by the people, and for the people". We have not ensured that this form of government would not perish from the earth. We now have a government of, by and for the government.

My proposals may differ from others slightly but any reform that serves to remove power from the federal government is something worth considering, in my opinion. Here are amendments I would propose for consideration.

  • Term Limits and Compensation Limits for Congress 
Congress, as it is currently composed, is a career choice for most of the critters that work there. This needs to stop. I don't believe in limiting speech(ie: McCain/Feingold) and I agree with the Citizen's United decision but not allowing our Congress critters to be bought and sold for long lengths of time would do us all a great service. I propose all that all Congressmen be limited to a total of twelve years of service in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. Whether someone serves 6 terms in the House or 2 in the Senate or a combination of 3 House terms and 1 Senate term, that would be it. The second section would repeal all pay for Congressmen after they leave office. Congress was not intended to be a lifetime income for those that were elected. It shouldn't be any longer. A severance package once someone leaves office would be something I would listen to so that there would be no issues in transitioning back to normal civilian life but no pensions should be given. Congress shouldn't be an occupation but rather a call to service.
I also would entertain a limit on the number of staff members that Congressmen are allowed to have. All staffers do now is allow bills to balloon to thousands of pages because lawmakers don't actually right the bills they sign their names to.

The 17th Amendment took the power to elect Senators from the several states' legislatures and gave it to state wide popular elections. All this has served to do is make the Senate a beauty pageant where the Senators have no fear of being held accountable by the states they serve as long as they bring home the pork. The intent was for each Senator to be the advocate for his respective state in the nation's capitol. With the combination of term limits and the repeal of the 17th Amendment, the effect of money on the Congress would be greatly diminished without limiting the individual's right to speech through the campaign contribution process. Each Senator would report to their home state legislature when they aren't in session in Washington. I think a nomination process with primaries at the state level would solve the need for citizen involvement in Senator selection.

The 16th Amendment gave the federal government the power to tax income. This gave way to the "progressive" income tax. Nothing has done more to remove incentive from our country than a tax system that penalizes success. With half of the country paying the freight for the other half from an income tax perspective, all this serves to do is place people in a class system and discourage success. This has also given way to one of the federal government's most draconian arbiters of power. The Internal Revenue Service has the power to take anything and everything a person has with no recourse on the taxpayer's part. This would allow a national consumption tax on new goods and services to replace the current tax system. The mechanisms to collect this tax are in place in all but a few states and little would be required to make the change other than the firing of every IRS agent that works for the federal government. 
The Fair Tax, as it has become known, is a system that would eliminate tax fraud and tax forms altogether. A "prebate" would be given to all legal residents paying the tax on all purchases up to the poverty level. The system would also make sure that those who came to this country illegally would not receive the benefit of being able live relatively tax free and illegal residents would not be eligible for the prebate.
The percentage would seem high but once the average person realizes the benefit of zero payroll, medicare or income taxes on income and no taxes on investment or savings, our financial footing would be much better, save for the tax preparation people and IRS agents, and I don't have much sympathy for them and neither should you. Economic freedom would spur a new entrepreneurial revolution, the likes of which this has not been seen in this country in generations. 

  • A Balanced Budget Amendment
A balanced budget amendment would prohibit the government from spending more than it takes in. An exemption for a time of Congressionally declared war could be added to enable emergency deficit spending. It is long past time that the country lived within its means. While Keynesians will argue that increased government spending stimulates the economy, there is little truth to Keynes' theories other than short term gain. Milton Friedman has proven to be the correct in knowing that less government spending allows a market economy to flourish. 
The current situation in Greece is a great example of government spending run amok. While some will argue that a default situation couldn't happen here, if the US Dollar would lose its status as the world's reserve currency, we could be in the very same situation. Russia and China are already working toward that end. Our country needs to live within its means. 

  • Judicial Retention Elections
Senator Ted Cruz, after the recent Supreme Court rulings, suggested the idea of judicial retention elections as a way to keep the country from being ruled by a panel of 9 unelected lawyers. Many states already have retention elections for state appointed judges. Once a judge is appointed, a period of eight years would pass before that judge or Supreme Court Justice would face a retention vote. That vote would happen during the midterm national elections. Judges and Justices would be prohibited from campaigning so as to retain their independence from the donor class and other, nonjudicial interests.

  • Plain Language, Bill Length, Citizen Review and Recorded Voice Votes
An amendment to reform the way Congress does business could encompass all of the reforms above. A plain language provision would not permit legalese or language meant to obscure. A bill length provision would limit bills to 5 pages in double spaced print. No more 2,000 page bills. A citizen review provision would require a period of 5 days, excepting bills regarding a declaration of war, for citizens to review and comment. No private hearings would be allowed but for those pertaining to national security and intelligence matters. All votes would be by voice in the affirmative or negative and would be recorded by video and audio in order for each Senate or House member to be reviewed on line. Perhaps a congressional YouTube channel. No more smoke and mirrors. No more saying one thing behind closed doors and doing another in public.

All of these ideas serve to limit government in the way that our founders sought. They were afraid a day would come and we would need to fence the ever expanding government back in. They gave us the provision, we need to use it. 

Of course, these are just my own thoughts, but I want to encourage everyone to think about what should be proposed during an Article Five Convention of the States. I know there are those on the far right that worry about a runaway convention. There is no chance in that because over half of all state legislatures are in conservative hands. Nothing is working at the Washington, DC level so the states need to seize the constitutional reigns and pull back on this unruly federal government. Senator Tom Coburn is leading the movement and I encourage you to visit the website established to help with the effort to make the Convention possible. This effort is, from my vantage point, the last stand for liberty and self government. Once liberty is lost, it will not be regained for generations and the time is drawing near.

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Ted Cruz talked about the possible need for a Convention of States on the Sean Hannity Radio Show on June 26th, 2015.

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