Friday, April 1, 2011

Constitutional Amendment Wish List

I received an e-mail forward from a friend a while back.  I rarely pass those along, but this was one that closely mirrored a post I've been working on already, so here it is:

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified!  Why?  Simple!  The people demanded it.  That was in 1971...before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.  Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure.  Given the government excesses we've seen in recent years, another amendment is in order:

Congressional Reform Act of 2011
1.  Term Limits --- 12 years only, one of the possible options below.
       A. Two six-year Senate terms
       B. Six two-year House terms
       C. One six-year Senate term and three two-year House terms
2.  No Tenure/Pension --- A Congressman collects a salary while in office but receives no pay when they leave office.
3.  Social Security --- Congress must participate.  All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately.  All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.
4.  Retirement --- Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all other Americans do.
5.  Pay raises --- Congress will no longer vote on their own pay raises; instead, they will be automatically given raises of 3% or the CPI, whichever is lower.
6.  Health care --- Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
7.  Laws --- Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.  They are not allowed to exempt themselves (i.e. federal employees) from any bill signed into law.
8.  Contracts --- All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective the day this amendment becomes law.  The American people did not make these contracts with Congressmen; Congressmen made all these contracts with themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.  If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message.  Maybe it is time.

That's an outstanding list!  I did a quick sanity check on the claims made in the first paragraph, and from what I can tell they're true.  If anything, they understate the case.  I think it depends on how you count, because I found another source that showed nine of the amendments taking place in less than a year rather than seven (with a tenth taking 13 months).  The bottom line is that these things can happen fast if the American public gets on a roll.

I think the core of this issue is that what we see today is more of a distributed monarchy than a representative form of government.  Sure, the votes still take place, but they often capture only a small percentage of the population's opinions, and it's been statistically proven that incumbents have a massive advantage.  Some current elected representatives have never held a job outside of government.  As we've seen especially over the past couple years, representatives are increasingly less likely to follow the stated and clear desires of their constituents than they are to pursue their own agenda.  Those agendas vary from representative to representative, but each of them has their own spheres of overlapping influence, and the whole thing is set up as a club to which only a chosen few are allowed to join.  We don't have a single King or Queen...but we do have 536 pseudo-monarchs, and they all seem to try to protect their own collective power from anyone on the outside.

Here's the problem: the Founders set up America to be a government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people', and their intention was to have people volunteer their services (yeah...they actually didn't get paid anything back then!) for a short time to participate in the very same government that they'd have to live with when their volunteer service ended.  What we have today is a gross perversion of what they created, with Senators, Congressmen, and Presidents acting above the laws that they enact for the rest of us.  An amendment with the provisions outlined above would go a long way toward removing the distributed monarchy and returning us to 'of the people, by the people, and for the people'.

In terms of the suggestions offered above, I like every single one of them.  Personally, I would add the following, as well:
9.  Clarify the 'anchor baby' clause --- The 14th Amendment contains a provision stating that anyone born on U.S. soil is automatically granted U.S. citizenship.  The original intent behind this clause was to explicitly and automatically grant full citizenship (and all the legal rights and privileges of such status) to former slaves in an effort to equalize the personhood of people of all skin colors.  Over the years, this provision has been abused to the point where it is becoming harmful to America.  Each year, thousands of illegal aliens sneak over the border either shortly before giving birth or while in labor specifically to take advantage of this clause.  Once the child is born a U.S. citizen, the parents almost always are allowed to stay in America, regardless of their education, health, language, skills, economic status, or anything else.  This is one critical illegal immigration loophole that needs to be closed, and hardly unprecedented - less than 20% of nations in the world grant birthright citizenship.

10.  Congressional Salaries --- Tie Congress' salary to the median income of the United States' general population.  The median income in 2010 was right around $50,000.  Congress salaries start around $170,000 (that's before all the perks like travel accounts, expense accounts, etc.).  Can imagine how invested our elected representatives would be in creating a roaring economy year in and year out if they were stuck right there in the middle of the pack?

What others would you add?

No comments:

Post a Comment