Saturday, May 8, 2010

WISHFUL THINKING

A friend sent me an email the other day, forwarding another signed by “A Fellow American.”

The subject was a thing called the “Congressional Reform Act of 2010” the object of which is to rein in the United States Congress, an institution which Fellow American says has the lowest approval rating of any entity in government.

The proposed legislation lists eight objectives which, no doubt, would get a rousing cheer from most Americans. Term limits for Congressmen and Senators; no pensions for former members of Congress; no exemption from Social Security; make them pay for their own retirement; no more voting themselves pay raises; no Congressional health care system; no exemptions from any laws imposed on the American people; all government contracts with former members of Congress to be void.

Fellow American ends his letter this way:

“We need to get a Senator to introduce this bill in the U.S. Senate and a Representative to introduce a similar bill in the U.S. House. These people will become American heroes.”

It would be funny if it were not so pathetic.

It cannot be that a grown man really believes any member of Congress could be persuaded to propose term limits for himself and his colleagues. Or even more incomprehensible, that somehow a majority in both houses might adopt such law.

Not to mention that, if such a thing were actually passed, it would not be promptly declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The Constitution specifies who can be elected to Congress. Only the Constitution can mandate term limits.

Perhaps I should be encouraged by the evidence that there are so many people in America who are fed up with the mess in Washington.

Maybe, somehow, some way, some day, the screaming protesters and silent cynics will come to understand that a convention under Article V is needed, that it is the only way to fix things, and that it represents no danger to our republic or our liberties.

Maybe if I, and others who agree, keep talking about it, keep writing about it, keep trying to break through the fog of ignorance and the smog of suspicion there will one day rise in this great nation a chorus of patriots demanding the right guaranteed by Article V of the United States Constitution; the right to meet in solemn convention as citizens of the several states and to propose those salutary amendments to our Constitution which experience has taught us are needed.

Maybe someday those who scream and protest and carry signs and march and shout at the TV cameras will come to realize that real change can only come in serious and thoughtful debate and discussion; that statesmanship is not amenable to sound bites; that crafting changes in the Supreme Law of our land is not a parlor game.

It has been my experience that there are two paradigms of civic leadership; patriots who risk their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to advance the cause of liberty, and entrepreneurs who surf the waves of public opinion for profit and power.

My encounters with the TV talking heads who whip tea Party folk into a frenzy suggest that they are primarily businessmen. They make their living doing what they do.

If any real progress will be made in America, it will come from the true patriots of the twenty-first century, those who see the work that needs to be done, and just go ahead and do it.

1 comment:

  1. The best reform of Congress, which does not require an amendment but could be codified by one, is to create regional caucuses in each house, each region with the approximately the same number of electoral votes, with each region controlling most spending within that region and having a Value Added or Retail Sales tax to fund discretionary spending and a Business Income Tax to fund entitlement spending (with credits for children and providing health care or insurance). Each region would be required to have a balanced budget and the rules of each chamber would have the product of each caucus' work pass automatically. A regional vice president would run the government in that region and would be selected by the electoral college in that region - with initial appointment by the President, but respecting the electoral result in the past presidential election. The president would veto or allow the passage into law of regional legislation upon the recommendation of the regional VP and each house would, by unanmious consent, affirm overrides by 2/3rds of the regional caucus in each House. A national caucus would be created to recommend budget targets to each region and govern such activities which are truly national in scope, such as overseas military deployments, a residual income tax on high incomes which will fund the repayment of the national debt and overseas military deployments. A tarrif would fund Homeland Security operations and the Department of State. Certain other operations would be self-supporting through fees (environmental enforcement, civil and workers rights enforcement, medical regulation and research, national parks, space exploration, the coining of money, printing of currency and the regulation of banking and transportation safety and accident investigation, as well as the Census and economic and labor statistics (subsidized through seniorage).

    Congress could enact this or it could be enacted or constitutionalized by an Article V Convention.

    A convention would be necessary to provide for direct election of members of a smaller national caucus on a regionwide basis (2 per region) as a unicameral body and to change the procedure for electing a President to be the national caucus plus the regional vice presidents, with the presidential term being 2 years with a limit of 5 terms lifetime.

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