Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Amendments We Need

The U.S. Constitution needs several new amendments. These are to address the corruption and dysfunction on Congress.  I will describe what's needed, but don't expect it to be in legalize or in Constitutional language - just try to focus on the concept, OK?  The Constitution has been amended as recently as 1992.

Amendment 28: No Gerrymandering
Districts for Representatives shall have the shapes of simple polygons to the extent possible, unless they border a the natural obstacles of a an ocean, river, or mountain range; or a state boundary. Each district may have only two sides defined by such obstacles. District boundaries shall be drawn to be as simple as practical and without foreknowledge of the voting registration of the residents.

Rational: One of the roots of corruption - drawing "safe districts" for incumbents, or for certain parties, or based on race. The prohibition of gerrymandering will make districts more competitive and responsive to the people.

Amendment 29: Term Limits For Congress
Senators shall be limited to 3 terms.  Representatives shall be limited to 6 terms.

Rational: The time in office correlates to the level of corruption. If the people can't vote out the corrupt congressmen, this will at least get them out eventually. The limits are long enough that there will always been experienced congressmen present to help the newbies. If the politician wants to stay in office, he can run for the other branch of Congress.

Amendment 30: No Discrimination
Neither Congress, or the several States, shall discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
Nothing in this amendment shall be interpreted as prohibiting bona fide qualifications based on sex that are reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

Rational: Another source of corruption - political patronage to favored groups or individuals. Also, a constant source of political conflict.

Amendment 31: Balanced Budget
Several different balanced budget amendments have been proposed over the years; anything is better than nothing. The key concepts are 1) no deficit spending year-to-year, 2) can run deficits when a declaration of war is in effect (but only to fund the war), 3) Congress can't shaft the states by requiring them to spend money (unfunded mandates).  
Every state constitution has a balanced budget amendment - and guess what, the budgets are balanced every year. It can be done.

Rational: Agency problem -- politicians are more interested re-election than they are the welfare of the country -- they'll raid the public treasury to buy votes as often as they can.  None risk voter ire by cutting programs or raising taxes.

Amendment 32: Line Item Veto for the President
The President can veto any appropriation line item.  Congress can override in the usual manner.

Rational: A spending control.

Amendment 33: Abortion neutral
Congress shall make no law pertaining to human abortion in any State of the United States. The legislatures of the several states can regulate human abortion by state law.

Rational: Seven Philosopher Kings made up the right to abortion. It's not in the Constitution - either for or against. The result has been 36 years of political conflict.  This amendment would put abortion back in the political arena -- where the people's will can be demonstrated by voting for state legislators. A democratic solution. It's time to end the war.

We can't expect Congress to vote these amendments out to the states -- instead, we'll need 34 states (two-thirds) to call for a Constitutional Convention.

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