Thursday, April 1, 2010


First the good.

The other day I received an email from my son forwarding a call to support an amendment to the federal constitution.

The trail of that email showed that it had been sent to dozens of people, and the message itself contained a plea to forward it to twenty friends.

Being an ardent supporter of an Article V amendatory convention, I was delighted to see that kind of grass roots support for a constitutional amendment. It shows that people are starting to realize that we can’t fix the mess in Washington merely by throwing the bums out; we have to fix the system.

Now the bad news.

The email proposed what it called the 28th Amendment. Here is the text:

"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States."

I can understand what the drafters of those words are trying to do. They see a Congress which has conferred lavish benefits on its members while, at the same time, enacting dubious entitlements for their constituents.

They see a Congress which has enacted a pension system for themselves which kicks in after only one two year term in office and lasts a lifetime.

They see a Congress which exempts its members from taxes imposed on everyone else, and they don’t like it.

So someone – the email does not tell us who – has composed the text of a 28th amendment, and sent it out on the Internet. It has a nice, punitive ring to it. That’ll fix ‘em. Make them subject themselves to Obamacare and see how they like it.

Problem is, we’re talking about a constitution here, folks. This isn’t the by-laws of a homeowners association. The language of a constitution has to be precise. It has to withstand the test of time and the challenges that very smart lawyers will present to very smart judges.

Did the drafter of the amendment really intend to stipulate that every American citizen would receive a salary equal to that of a Congressman?

Did they really intend that every citizen should have a staff and an office in Washington, D.C. and another one in their home state?

I don’t think so. But that is what their amendment would require.

Constitution writing is serious business. It should command the best brains, the most experience, and the steadiest hands and hearts.

We need constitutional reform in this country, and we need it badly. But it will not come without a groundswell of support from the Atlantic to the Pacific and beyond.

It will not come until the American people realize that there are no quick and easy fixes, no one shot, one time, one amendment band aid that we can rally around and force on the Washington establishment.

No, my friends, we need an Article V convention. We need to call together the best of the best, get the best ideas on the table and do the best job of drafting, so that our generation can say that we deserve a place in history along side of Mr. Washington, Mr. Madison and Mr. Hamilton.

Take a look at There you will see what I am talking about.

1 comment:

  1. I think the proposed amendment is mainly about health care. Many object that Congress is enacting a health care system for them that it does not use itself. Of course, this is both true and false. The false part is in the area of insurance exchanges. Congress gets the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, which covers all non-military federal employees (for purposes of health care, the President is considered a military member and gets the same health care as our troops are entitled to - same doctors, same hospitals). The insurance exchanges in the law are modeled after the FEHBP - so the amendment would not have any impact on that part of reform. The other piece Congress has is the congressional clinic. It is the successor to the clinics which every member, staffer and intern used back in the day when I was an intern and needed a decongestant. Back in the day, it had an RN rather than full medical facilities. It has since been upgraded with a full medical staff.

    This happened for two reasons. The first was the Capitol Hill shooting incident - where the officers shot and the shooter were taken to DC General, which was an excellent trauma center - but was too far away to save the officers. The second was that Congress, in order to save money, closed DC General - making emergency health care too far away when an elderly Congressman or Senator has an emergency - as they sometimes do.

    Congressman pay for some of this care with a monthly fee. It is, essentially, employer provided direct health care. I am all in favor of such care, since I am a cooperativist who believes that the financial sector should be done away with if possible. Mandating that employers provide in house doctors, however, would be cost prohibitive for all but large employers. It would also raise many people's libertarian hackles. The only way to really mandate something like that is to enact single-payer health care with providing direct medical services as the only opt-out. Of course, such a system could be enacted voluntarily and I believe it is in the interest of large employers to do so, along with in-house free daycare for both sick and well children children. Indeed, if your doctor was at work, you could not skip work when sick. It would also take malpractice off the table, since it would become an employee discipline matter rather than a legal matter. For these reasons, employers should offer such services, possibly with an assist from the tax code - but even without it money would be saved if employers doctors treated employees and family members and paid doctors and nurses a salary rather than paying on a fee for service basis. While fee for service has better allocative efficiency, it requires that doctors maintain independent offices, insurance and profit. Hiring doctors saves all that.