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News Amendments to the Constitution

  1. Mar 4, 2006 #1
    What are in my opinion necessary amendments to prevent the further slide and corruption of democracy in the US:

    1) Term limits for congressmen. This one's pretty simple, there's not much point running for congress in your interests (as most do) if you can't stay there for life. It also makes it more expensive for criminal bribers...err I mean lobbyists...to repeatedly buy out multiple politicians every few years. Maybe 4 terms for representatives, 2 for senators.

    2) Public ballot referenda. Also pretty simple. As things stand, the people have no effective recourse against Washington when the government (as it so often does) acts in its own interests rather than theirs. This would permit the people to nullify, or pass new legislation in a national ballot (similar to what is currently done in California).

    3) Replacement of the current presidential ticket system. Each party fronts a candidate for president, no running mate. Second place candidate becomes vice president. Cabinet nominations split between them in some way (not so sure on this last part, the split should in some way be beneficial to the winning candidate).

    4)Extreme reduction in number of presidential appointments. Just the courts, and the upper echelons of each department. Knock the current 3,000 person figure down to 100 or less. Get rid of people like Michael Brown in FEMA.

    Any other ideas? Comments? Criticisms?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2006 #2


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    It's called voting, there is your recourse. Your suggestion is basically useless since you have to wait for elections again in order for anything to happen and by that time, your probably capable of kicken some electoral butt.

    Uhm.... this was done before.... with rather disasterous results.

    So how do they get their job then? I mean if Congress was expected to vote on every single job in washington........ ouch. If you setup a hiring comittee, you'd have people complaining left and right about how "Washington is now run by a small group of secretive politicians!!!!" blah blah blah.
  4. Mar 4, 2006 #3
    Wrong. voting is a recourse against a politician who voted, it does nothing to change the law.

    I'm aware it was done before. Define disasterous results. The reason I sugested this was to weaken the executive branch as a whole, and preventing the sort of groupthink that pervades the current administration.

    The US is the only nation in the world where the incoming executive appoints that many people. Almost every other nation promotes internally from within the relevant organizations, a method that prevents failed horse breeding club lawyers from becomeing FEMA directors quite nicely.
  5. Mar 4, 2006 #4
    Perhaps on the surface that might appear desirable, but I think there are a number of very negative consequences that would follow such a change. James Madison does a pretty good job at pointing out what such consequences would be in The Federalist, No. 49. I also think that this would significantly alter the balance of power between the states and federal governments. As someone who beleives pretty strongly in the "Devolution Revolution" I think that a national referendum would really damage the principles of federalism on which the country was founded.

    Are you suggesting that we overturn the twelth amendment? We passed that one becuase the system you're proposing almost crippled our government. I don't think the Framers really liked the fact that they had to pass it, but it was absolutely neccesary. I highly doubt that our country has progressed to such a point that it would be ready to handle such a system, if implemented it would inevitably result in the same mess that it created in the early 1800's. Maybe one day we'll have bettered ourselves enough to use such a system, but I think that day is a long way away.
  6. Mar 4, 2006 #5


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    That's why representatives are allowed to pass laws that repeal other laws. You vote for the guy who will help change 300 laws, not give the general public 300 ballot initiatives. And think about how our government works. These laws have committes of experts to review them, debate, etc etc. Would you want joe six pack to just walk up to the voting box and put as little thought into the laws that define our society as they do into who they vote for rep., sen., and pres.? With an educated, informed, thoughtful population its a great idea. With our population, horrible idea. There are benefits and consequences and i feel the consequences in reality would faaaaaar outweight the benefits.

    The government nearly slowed to a stand-still. Think what would happen if the president and John Kerry got to have it out everytime some bill came before Congress. I mean sure it won't be even 1/10th of how bad it is in the PWA section here but it would surely turn the government into a motionless debatefest.

    Actually that is quite a nice idea come to think of it. I take what i said back, i didn't really even think of that for some reason.
  7. Mar 4, 2006 #6
    Federalism has been dying for the past 150 years anyway, and if the corporations controlling Washington continue to have their way, what little is left won't last much longer. Further, I don't see how it would impact federalism either way. It gives the people the abiltiy to stop Washington's continual erosion of federalism by nullifying laws that the people don't want.

    I want the executive branch crippled. It needs to be crippled. Mind you, I'm not talking about a dual presidency. The roles of the president and vice-president of the current system would be preserved. The main reason I suggested it was to break up the cabinet, and to force dissenting voices into the administration so we don't get Bush administration style groupthink ever again.

    The representatives no longer serve the people. A number of them should be in prison for corruption, treason against the american people, or both. I would rather have joe sixpack voting than congressmen bought and paid for by the megacorporations. Committees of corrupt, self-interested politicians review our laws, not experts. You think any of the politicians that voted for the DMCA knew anything about the technology involved other than the RIAA/MPAA money in their pockets?

    You're misunderstanding the system I'm suggesting. The vice-president would have no extra powers. If necessary the power of the two could be rewritten, the point is that the executive branch needs to have dissenting voices.
  8. Mar 4, 2006 #7


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    Alot of this sounds like conspiracy theory over-reaction babble. The problem here is that you're making assumptions where one shouldn't. If representatives need expert help, who else are they suppose to go to? People OUTSIDE of the industry in question? Do you go to the CEO of Ford when you need information on digiital copyrighting? Do you go to a Berkeley art major? Do you go to a housewife in Nebraska? No, you go where the experts are! You are also making the assumption that most, if not all representatives are corrupt which is an absolute fallacy. Most of these people are not corrupt. There are no award shows for non-corrupt politicians. You never hear about non-corrupt politicians. The best representative makes himself fairly unknown and non-controversial to the people he is representing. This is simply an over-reaction to a few news stories from a few newspapers hoping to reap more profits off the public's ignorance.
  9. Mar 4, 2006 #8
    But they don't go to the experts. They just take their cues from whoever is stuffing their pockets.

    I didn't say most. I said a number. Most of those however, are in the highest echelons of both parties, and have the most power.

    Where is our campaign finance reform? Where is our balanced budget? Where is our hard line on the trade deficit with China? These people do not care about the american people or what is best for the country, only what is best for themselves. This has nothing to do with news articles about corruption, this has to do with the government's proven track record of acting in its own interests. The republican party wanting to change the rules to keep Delay as majority leader despite the charges of corruption? Pure self interest. If they cared about what was right for the country, about serving the American people first and foremost they wouldn't have even thought about it.
  10. Mar 4, 2006 #9


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    Again, you are using small minorities to justify change to the whole system. Plus your saying they aren't acting in the best interests of the people yet start your argument by demanding changes that won't necessarily be good for the public. Finance reform, yah that's good if done right. Balanced budget? What happens when programs are cut or taxes are raised? People won't see that as good when they have to reap the ramifications of it. Trade deficit with China? Better get ready to pay more for that television or washing machine etc etc. Sure it's good for the society but the people are going to be so short-sighted and selfish that they see their prices go up and demand new leadership. Hell I can see why politicians act in their own interests occasionally, the electorate never has the sense to look long-term or non-selfishly. Do you ever wonder why the politicians that can bring the most money into their districts are the ones who tend to stay elected? And do you know what their main focuses are on their campaign trail? "Oh look at all the nice goodies I brought to you, my people, my electorate, my masters! Re-elect me you short-sighted sheep because im promising more money, lower taxes, clean air, and all it costs is your souls which you are all glad to give me". Etc etc. God people are stupid. I tend to default on blaming everyone, my appologies.
  11. Mar 5, 2006 #10


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    This is certainly a bold program; quite worthy of the radical philosopher whose name you are using as your handle. I have thought along some of these lines myself and would like to ask a couple of questions.

    On the referenda and nullification. When I was a kid in California we were taught that the great governmental things we had that most other states didn't were "Initiative, Referendum, and Recall", always said that way like a chant. I guess Nullification has been added since I left. The presence of these provisions in a Contitution is testimony to a Jeffersonian regard for The People, in full acknowledgement of their ignorance, short-sightedness, and greed. Can they be any worse in these traits than the politicians? Whether California has benefited overall from using these populist measures or not is much disputed. Libertarians love the small government implications from the tax caps that have resulted, but school advocates lament that schoool standards, being under-funded, will plummet or have already. Libs reply "feather bedding beauurocracy!" and so it goes... And don't forget Recall, which was used with such brilliant tactical control by the republicans recently.

    Your Vice Presidential system was the original one in the US Constitution. After one experience of the Vice President being the most successful rival of the President, and maybe even of the opposite party, they abandoned it for the present slate system. I would be more in favor of a bullet voting system by slates. So the repubs and dems would each submit several slates (instead of a winner-take-all primary) and submit those to the voters who could split their single votes into say tenths and distribute the tenths as they would - across parties if that suited them. And then the total of the tenths would be taken and the slate with the mostest would win.

    On Presidential appointments. Federal judges and Justices of the Supreme Court are not appointed by the president, but rather nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. So it's like the generators of a Lie group; the product of two produces the third. It takes Congress and the Supreme Court to remove a President. Other appointments (cabinet heads) are provided for by statute. How would you modify this?
  12. Mar 5, 2006 #11


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    As far as the cabinet goes, I think it would at least be worth looking into a system whereby the department itself chooses its own head via internal promotion. That way, you know the person has experience in that particular field, is judged to be qualified by the people most likely to know, and isn't just a parrot of the president looking for nothing other than to gain favor. There would have to be a panel set up, similar to the board of directors in corporations, to choose the department head. Beats me how the panels themselves would be chosen.

    Admittedly, this would really kill the entire point of the executive branch, in that the president would suddenly have far less control over policy. Really, though, do the state department, department of agriculture, and department of the interior honestly need to advance a single, either liberal or conservative, goal of what America should be? I would much prefer if they were apolitical to as large an extent as possible.
  13. Mar 5, 2006 #12


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    A compromise would be the British system of an unfireable permanent beaurocracy headed by a political minister, as comically exposed in the TV series "Yes, Minister". There are no good solutions, only less bad ones.
  14. Mar 6, 2006 #13
    Not technically, but an initiative to repeal a law can be made, which has the same effect.

    That recall saved the State from further downward spiral in my opinion. Davis was an incompetent buffoon, and the legislature is filled with traitors that serve the citizens of mexico first, not the citizens of california, who Davis was all too happy to work with.

    As for the ignorance and the greed of the people, I am less afraid of the competing greed and ignorance of the 250 million, than I am of the cooperating greed and ignorance of the 300.

    The system I suggested is not perfect, but something has to be done to break up the executive hivemind.

    Judges and Justices I would leave alone. Cabinet heads would be split between the president and the opposing party vice preisdent. The 3,000 some beauracratic appointments would be removed entirely, and those jobs would be given by promotion from within the appropriate organization, which is how almost every other democratic country does it. It prevents the failed horse club lawyers of the world from becoming FEMA directors.

    In Japan everyone except the top official is internally promoted. The PM appoints only the top officials, who in fact have very limited power. The beauracrats run the country more than the PM and cabinet do. This is a step too far away from executive appointments, IMO. I think cabinet level positions should be appointed, but they should be split, so we don't see people like Colin Powell chased out for disagreeing with the president. There needs to be dissent, to some extent. This is why I suggest having the VP being the runner up, and appointing, say 1/3 of the cabinet. The winning candidate appoints the other 2/3.

    This is the idea, to reduce the power of the executive branch.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2006
  15. Mar 6, 2006 #14


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    Why not go for something akin to the british system? The major points being;

    The head of the executive is the leader of the majority in the house of commons.
    All members (ministers) of the executive are drawn from the ranks of elected MPs.
    All executive decisions are subject to house of commons scrutiny through cross party committees.

    Advantages are;
    The House of Commons can remove the executive through a vote of no confidence.
    A PMs own party can remove him / her.
    The cabinet is more balanced as it has to represent all major POVs from their party.
    The cabinet members are directly responsible to the electorate giving greater accountability.

    As a republic you would still have a position of president but it would be non-political and mainly a figure head role to allow for for the smooth transition of power and to greet visiting heads of nations.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 6, 2006
  16. Mar 6, 2006 #15
    Because the british system eliminates federalism. Also, such a change would require almost an entire rewrite of the constitution, not just a few amendments.
  17. Mar 6, 2006 #16


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    The UK parliament is a federalist body. It governs England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland.
    Not really. You could keep the state structures in place which determines the formation of the legislature. It is only the selection and eligibilty of the executive function which would need changing.
  18. Mar 6, 2006 #17


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    The first and second would bother me for the same reason: you need a professional to draw up laws that will actually work. I'm not sure how well public ballot referenda have worked in California, but Colorado voters just don't have enough understanding of the budget process for it to work well here.

    For example, Colorado voters initiated and approved an amendment to the state constitution requiring any increase in tax revenues (beyond that due to an increase in poplulation) to be approved in an election and instituted strict laws on the process that make it very difficult to raise taxes. If tax revenues drop due to a recession, the lower revenues set a new baseline, meaning the state can't easily recover from a recession. That would be a good idea for those that want to limit taxes, but Colorado voters also initiated and approved an amendment to the constitution that sets a minimum increase per year in spending on education that has to take place, even in recession years where tax revenues decrease. The two amendments combined theoretically create a situation sometime in the future where 100% of tax revenues will fund education with no money left over for any other government function. Who knows what happens once the two pass each other where it's no longer possible to adhere to one of the amendments without violating the other - of course, no one knows what happens when the last government employee is laid off and there's no one to sign the checks for education, either.

    There does need to be some serious reform on how campaigns are financed. Even if not outright corruption, the fact that campaign contributions increase the chances of a candidate favorable to a specific issue being elected tends to create an apparent "political office for sale" situation. The trouble is how to do that without violating the First Amendment.
  19. Mar 6, 2006 #18
    The generally a lobbysit group, or a legislator will write the laws that go on the public initiatives (the same people that would normally write the laws). The important part is that this gives the people the ability to override a corrupt legislature. Power ultimately rests with the people, not with the elected officials.
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