From continuation of the war in Afghanistan, to passage of a healthcare bill that is the first step toward socialized medicine; and from passage of a wasteful stimulus bill that does nothing to increase jobs but does everything to increase the national debt, to an unparalleled expansion of the national government and a corresponding limitation of the power of the states and of the people, the Congress and the Obama administration have run amok and pissed off the American people. At this writing, Republicans seemed poised to regain a majority in the House of Representatives, and possibly (but not likely) to regain a majority in the Senate. As of 2010, we can do nothing about Barack Obama.
But will Republican control of Congress (and, looking to 2012, a Republican in the White House) do anything to stop the rampant expansion of federal power and the loss of Americans’ liberties? Judging from the actions of Congress and the president during the previous administration, an unqualified “no” is the answer to that question.
Stopping the erosion of freedom and liberty will come only from more fundamental change. Here is my prescription for a healthy America:
- Amend the Constitution to limit federal spending to a set percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) except in pre-defined emergencies. [This is necessary if the government is to operate within a realistic budget.]
- Amend the Constitution to provide for, upon the concurrence of three-fourths of the state legislatures, a veto by the states of Congressional spending in excess of the set percentage of GDP. [This is a necessary check on Congress’s ability to suspend its rules and ignore the Constitution.]
- Amend the Constitution to prohibit unfunded federal mandates to the states. [This is necessary for the states to operate within their budgets and not be blindsided by Congressional whim.]
- Amend the Constitution to mandate a presidential line-item veto of Congressional bills. [This is just common sense; the party in power in the Congress typically protects items in danger of a veto by loading into a bill other items that a president dare not veto.]
- Amend the Constitution to require that Congress shall pass no law that does not apply equally to the Congress and the people. [e.g., Congress has its own wonderful health care plan of which most Americans could only dream.]
- Repeal the 17th amendment to the Constitution. [The 17th amendment provided for Senators to be elected by popular vote rather than by state legislatures. The intended effect was to dilute state influence over the Congress. Let’s give some power back to the states so they can exert more influence over Congressional excess. For those who argue that the people should elect Senators, consider that they elect U.S. Representatives and they elect the members of the state legislatures who would in turn elect the Senators]
- Amend the Constitution to change the presidential term of office from four years to six years; and to prohibit presidents from serving more than one six-year term during a lifetime.
- Amend the Constitution to change the term of office of U.S. representatives from two years to four years; and to prohibit representatives from serving more than one four-year term during a lifetime.
- Amend the Constitution to prohibit U.S. senators from serving more than one six-year term during a lifetime.
- Amend the Constitution to restrict Congress from meeting more than six months in every two years. [This provides plenty of time for Congress to address its truly necessary business, and it will force the leaders to set efficient agendas and not to entertain unnecessary and frivolous proposals. It will have the added benefit of giving Congressmen and Senators time to pursue their real livelihoods, and in so doing, more fully understand the effects of laws they pass, and more fully engage with the people.]
Two points: First, there are inevitable arguments against passing the term-limit amendments. Restricting service to one term during a lifetime is drastic—it will destroy continuity in the Congress and White House. Yes, it will. It will prevent career elected officials from catering to lobbyists in order to achieve financial gain, and it will mean that elected officials no longer will be beholding to powerful interests with money for reelection. I listened last week to an NPR interview with U.S. Representative Mike Castle, who was defeated in Delaware’s Republican Congressional Primary by Christine O’Donnell. At the end of the interview, Castle was asked what his plans were for the future. His reply was that he “really had no idea.” That, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with Congress—those elected anticipate, accurately, that once elected, their incumbency will propel them to a career in the office. Many career Congressmen have no other vocation, and expect to earn a living from Congressional pay and from dubious other remuneration from relationships with lobbyists. Another argument is that the power of the federal government will be curtailed if such amendments pass. Well, that’s the point, isn’t it?
The second point is that it is not likely that two-thirds of both houses of Congress will propose such a set of amendments. Certainly, any set of proposed amendments must come from a convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures; or a Constitutional Convention demanded by the people. Ten years ago I would have considered such action either by the states or by the people to be no more than wishful thinking. Now I think that it is not outside the realm of possibility if government continues to ignore the Constitution and the wishes of the people.
Finally, a more light-hearted proposal: Let’s pass an amendment to the Constitution that fines Congressmen and Senators $1,000 for every law passed; and pays them $2,000 for every law repealed. Who knows; the federal code may eventually become readable!