Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How to Fix the Government

I've given it a lot of thought, and I think I've come up with a way to fix a lot of what is broken in the government.  The federal government is far too powerful, and our elected officials tend to think of themselves as aristocracy.  There are a few simple changes however that would resolve a great many issues.

We need to acknowledge the constitution as the supreme sovereign law of the land, that is written imprecisely. It is a legal document and not a living document. It should be a hard and fast rule that we follow what the founders, or those who wrote the later amendments were trying to get at when interpreting the constitution.  Further when that is in question we should always err on the side of protecting individual liberty, protecting property rights, and minimizing the size of government.   I haven't figured out exactly how to do this part, but it should be something that is written into the rules of the judicial branch, and judges should be held accountable if they violate it.  This would curtail much judicial activism.

While I don't hold with the idea of elections for judges, I do think that the people should periodically be able to vote to remove any judge from office, including recall elections should enough people feel such is necessary.   There needs to also be some protection however because judges need to be able to make decisions without having to worry about whether or not the mob will oust them for something they've been whipped into a frenzy to believe, whether or not the facts they're given are accurate.

Congress needs to be reigned in too.

The most popular idea behind this is term limits.  That might help, but would create other problems unless done on a nation wide scale.  Instead I had a different idea. 

Many hideous laws are passed each year by attaching them to 'must pass' legislation. This needs to stop, but how to do it eluded me for quite some time. Some countries actually have a limit on the size of any legislation, and  setting a word or page limit on legislation was something I considered for a long time, but I didn't really like it, because sometimes you might need to go long.  You could carve out an exception, but such would be exploited immediately, and permanently.

Then it hit me.  They're passing tens or even hundreds of thousands of pages of legislation each year.  Most legislators don't read it. We even had a Speaker of the House say "We need to pass the bill to find out what's in it."  In a perfect world, that would have resulted in instant removal from office, but it's not a perfect world.

What if they had to actually read and understand the legislation before they could vote on it?  Carolyn McCarthy authored gun control legislation that banned certain features on guns that included, among other things, barrel shrouds.  When pressed, she didn't even know what a barrel shroud was or why it was so dangerous as to need to be banned, she guessed that a piece of wood or metal covering a gun barrel that prevents you from burning your hand was "that shoulder thing that goes up".  As to what a shoulder thing that goes up is, I have no idea.  

This was legislation that SHE authored, and she didn't know what was in it.  How is this acceptable?  How is it acceptable that any Senator or Representative not know what is in a bill, or why those provisions are in that bill?  Why was SHE not removed from office for such an egregious violation of public trust.  She was hired by the people to represent their interests.  How can she represent such if she has no idea what she's voting on?

In order to vote on legislation, a congressman should have read the bill and understand the legislation well enough to be able to argue compellingly for or against any portion of the legislation.  If not he shouldn't be able to vote.

Of course they would just miss votes like they do now, so there needs to be an attendance requirement in congress.  I would say they should be there for at least 80% of the votes and at least 60% of floor debate or they're out. 

This would have the desired effect of reducing the size of the legislation.  It would still allow riders to be placed in bills, as that is a legitimate tactic, but it would prevent vast bills from being created that no one reads.  Bills would naturally be shorter as the congressman would have to personally read and understand the legislation or be fired.  It would also force our congresspeople to actually be held accountable for everything that they vote on.  This would also have the effect of reducing the total amount of legislation.  As far as I'm concerned, that is a good thing.

I do forsee one danger however.  Congress would simply place more in the hands of unelected bureaucrats.  That issue would have to be addressed. 

We also need to get rid of the two houses each passing a different version of a bill and reconciling it in some joint committee later without being subject to a vote later.  Each house has to pass the exact same version of the bill.    If they want to run two versions in parallel in Congress, than they'd either better be identical and stay identical, or once the committee reconciles them, they each have to go back for a full vote.  If they can't come to an agreement, the bill has to die. 

Severability is something else that needs to go away.   Most bills have what is known as a severability clause. That means that if part of the bill is found to be unconstitutional, the entire bill is not unconstitutional.  If a bill lacks such a clause, and a portion of it is found to be unconstitutional, the entire bill is gone.   This would make congress think long and hard about what they put together, and would make them further separate pieces of legislation to prevent one part from killing the other part. It might also cause them to put in pieces that are designed to kill legislation, but I think this would be less likely as it would be far more obvious.

Much of this would reduce federal power, forcing the states to work things out for themselves, but there needs to be more. The states need to be able to nullify federal legislation as well as executive orders and treaties.   I'm thinking like something like two thirds or three fourths  of the states should be able to eliminate any federal dictates.  They shouldn't be able to create it except by the amenditory process outlined in the constitution, only eliminate it.  Again, there should not be the option to have any severability within this.  If the states nullify legislation, the entire bill is nullified.  

While I'm not sure these changes would fix everything, they would help a lot to restoring individual and states rights.  The problem is that it won't happen, at least not without bloodshed.  The list of governments that have ever abdicated any power once having obtained it without some amount of bloodshed is extremely small, and make no mistake this would vastly reduce the power of the federal government.  Those in power there would never stand for a reduction in that power.

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