Archive for August 2013
This president scares me. He’s done nothing in the last five years to convince me that he knows what he is doing or that what he is doing puts America in a safer place on the world stage.
He gives great speeches. The man is a good orator. Then I read the transcript and my stomach clenches.
Months ago, this president drew a line in the sand and said “If Syria’s government crosses this line, I’ll have to respond.” At the time, I thought the danger would be that he’d move the line when the day came. The problem with a line in the sand is that if you aren’t committed to it, if you move it, you look weak and weak nations are open to all kinds of attacks. That sort of mushiness led to the Iranian hostage crisis and 911. “What attacks would Obama’s limp-wristed brinkmanship bring us to down the road?” I thought.
But, now I’m starting to really wonder. The “rebels” in Syria are Alqaeda-affiliated. They’re the bad guys as far as we’re concerned. King Assad is not a nice guy either. There’s no good side here! Why are we involved in Syria? Because it’s a stone’s throw from Israel? Yeah, okay, I can sort of accept that, but arming Alqaeda in Syria doesn’t make any sense if we’re talking about Israel’s safety. Alqaeda is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
Assad used chemical weapons on his people. That’s bad. I denounce that. But the US’s response will be to arm Alqaeda?
We did something similar in the Iran-Iraq war — supported one side, then supported the other, then went to war against the first side and then … well, I lost our place in that square dance. I’m not sure what side we were on when 911 happened. Does it matter? Probably not!
So after spending a decade dismantling Alqaeda worldwide, we’re going to give material support to them now? On what planet is that considered a wise idea?
Kerry certainly sounded like we might commit American military assets — at least drones — to the Syria action. A USA Today poll says that 80% of us want him to get Congressional approval. Congress has warned him that he needs their approval. Syria has not attacked the United States or our assets. Britain has said they want no part of this charade. President Obama is standing alone on the brink of sticking his finger into a hornet’s nest.
Given his history, do we really think he won’t act without or without Congressional approval? I think that in his deranged little narcissistic mind, he believes this will secure him a third term (the Constitution is no bar to King Obama) … or at least a legacy that won’t fall to defunding legislation or an amendments convention as ObamaCare is likely to do.
The last place I want us to be is Syria. We should have stayed out of the whole devolution of the Arab Spring debacle. It’s not ending in a good place for anyone. But there’s a silver lining in the coming thunderhead. If Obama acts without Congressional approval, we might have grounds for impeachment.
Call your Congressional delegates!
French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America about soft tyranny – “It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
Do we not live in that definition?
The United States of America were conceived under a concept of self-governance. People were to be informed and passionate about government, to direct their representatives in the paths chosen by the people, and to remove them from office when they failed to represent their “sovereign” (the people) as authorized. And, today, Congress has a less than 10% favorability rating and a 90% incumbency.
How does that happen?
Beats me, but we should do something about it. But Tocqueville pointed out 200 year ago that people tend not resist soft tyranny because it sneaks up on us, giving the tyrants time to convince us that the world we live in is a normal world that we should accept. Pay no attention to the concertina wire topping the societal bounce house. Have fun! Enjoy! There’s nothing to concern your little heads over.
Except the looming $17 trillion national debt and the unfunded liabilities for entitlement programs that now exceeds $90 trillion, which is growing at about $5 trillion a year. Add to that an imperial presidency, Congress that has ceded most of its authority either to the president or to the administrative state, and a judiciary that apparently mislaid the Constitution in 1934 and we should be terrified about what is going on around us. Past generations historically grew a backbone during times of crisis. Most of us went shopping and the few of us that woke up and started complaining got our tax-exemptions stuck somewhere at the IRS and have apparently decided to wait until that is resolved before complaining some more.
Except … we’re two states’ applications away from an Article V convention on a balanced budget amendment. I’m not convinced this is going to solve anything, but it’s a step in the right direction. In 1980, the 32 applications asked to cap the debt at $1.4 trillion. Good times! We’re obviously in a great deal more trouble than we were then. We’re also as a people a great deal more informed (thank you, Internet) about our situation, which means there’s a far better chance of this amendment actually being ratified by the states. In 1985, Congress – recognizing that the people, through their state legislatures, were about to take the budget process out of their hands, “got serious” about debt and passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act and the applications quit coming in.
That was decades ago, but they’re still there. The Constitution doesn’t sunset the applications. We only need two more states to apply and then we can have an Article V convention on this subject, which should probably set the debt limit at some percentage of GDP. Historically, the economy starts to suffer at around 18%, so maybe a little less than that. Delegates are not bound to the wording of the applications, btw, just the subject.
But it won’t fix anything on its own because an amendments convention is subject-limited and the solution to balancing the budget is pretty obvious – just tax everybody at about 68% of our income and viola – the budget is balanced.
Wait! That won’t work! Government’s budget may be balanced, but how am I supposed to pay my mortgage on 32% of my paycheck? Yeah … it’s more complicated than that, which is why – should a convention actually be called — the delegates should address more than just a balanced budget amendment. The other discussion might not be eligible for ratification, but it needs to be offered for Congress to propose – capping taxation rates. It’s not just a good idea, it’s a necessary one.
In fact, the delegates should make recommendations (which are non-binding even if there are sufficient applications) for amendments on several issues – including repeal of the 16th and 17th amendments and:
- An amendment that sunsets all federal regulations unless they are specifically approved by a Congressional committee
- An amendment that provides for the repeal of future regulations by a timely 3/4s vote of state legislatures
- An amendment setting term limits for Congress
- An amendment setting term limits and confidence votes for the Supreme Court
- An amendment allowing a super-majority of Congress and/or state legislatures to set aside Presidential executive orders
- An amendment making it easier for states to apply for an amendments convention while keeping the ratification threshold at 3/4s of the states.
And, no, I didn’t come up with most of these. I borrowed them from Mark Levin’s “The Liberty Amendments.”
I know a lot of people don’t think messing around with a little bitty country like Syria is that dangerous, but ….
A couple of years ago, I read “One Second After”, which tells the story of a North Carolina college town that must deal with the aftermath of a electro-magnetic pulse that takes out pretty much every bit of electrical generation in the nation. The end of the book leaves the perpetrators unidentified, which drives home the message that the US is extremely reliant upon our technology and would not be capable of retaliating should something like this occur.
So, when I hear Syria saying they will retaliate if the United States and/or the United Kingdom attacks them, I sort of wonder ….
They don’t need ICBMs to hit us. They just need a ship and a SCUD missile. Those are already available. Iran probably already has them.
Have you ever thought about what you would do if you couldn’t flip a switch to turn on the lights long-term? How would you see at night? Wash your clothes? Wash your dishes? Get your news? Heat your home? Get to work? And where would you like to be when it happens?
I’m finishing up a series and throwing some ideas out there, but then I think I’m coming back to this because if Syria is serious, we may all be in trouble and we’d better start thinking ahead so some of us can live through the consequences.
Did I mention that an amendments convention is not a constitutional convention?
It is a convention of state-authorized delegates called to propose amendments to the constitution. It doesn’t make laws and the state legislatures are not required to ratify the amendments produced by that body.
The Founders put Article V in the Constitution for a reason. They foresaw a time when Congress might refuse to act on needed reforms and they wanted to provide the states a method to go around Congress when needed. The states-application-for-convention has not been used, but there are times when it probably should have been. Avoiding the Civil War comes to mind.
Today, we are in a similar situation. Our country is deeply divided and the political class appears to be unable or unwilling to address the problem. As our political third-rails multiply like viruses, an amendments convention seems like a better idea than a civil war to deal with issues like term limits, fiscal restraint in Congress or clarifying the federal-state relationship.
In fact, I believe a more broad-subject convention might provide the country with ownership of our Constitution. The Constitution doesn’t provide for a broad-subject convention. Our Founders were wise to create a cumbersome process. That’s right. What I want is not necessarily what we should get. Amending the Constitution should be considered tinkering with the foundation of a building. It should be done when needed, but avoided when things are sound.
Right now, we’re very close to an amendments convention on the subject of federal debt. Most Americans don’t like the idea of our children and grandchildren paying down the out-of-control federal debt over the next several decades. We’re about to tip over into the $17 trillion range, so we need to face facts – Washington is not going to fix itself. The best hope for curtailing the federal debt is using the constitutional powers of the states.
One suggested amendment is a balanced budget provision. Remember, 34 states would have to request this to trigger a convention. We’re currently at 32. If a convention were called to propose a balanced budget amendment, 38 states would be needed to ratify it. The Goldwater Institute has suggested the proposed 28th Amendment require the federal government to obtain the approval of 26 states for any increase above an initial debt limit.
Yes, this is the governmental equivalent of asking Dad to cosign your car loan. Our elected representatives should be ashamed that they need that sort of oversight.
We’re at a crossroads. Washington refuses to balance its budget. Our national debt now exceeds 100% of the Gross Domestic Product, which we last did during World War II. Our 2012 federal fiscal year operating deficit was $1.1 trillion. Congress hasn’t passed a budget in the Obama administration. We have $90 Trillion in unfunded liability. To save the nation from bankruptcy, the American people, operating through our state legislatures, can and must intervene.
Most of us (Paul Krugman excepted) can agree that a balanced budget amendment is a good idea. There is a question about the best way to go about. Some would like to see a simple amendment that requires a balanced budget, period. Others believe it should have an exception for war or economic freefall or an invasion from Mars. Yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek. Exceptions are so subject to interpretation and manipulation. I favor involving the state legislatures because they are a great deal more accountable to the people than those in DC are.
This role for states is not new. State legislatures used to exercise a great deal more control at the federal level before the 17th Amendment removed them from the role of appointing U.S. Senators. Senators understood that their votes on the floor were subject to scrutiny on the folks back home through the legislature and they acted accordingly. Today, they answer more to multinational corporations and lobbyists than they do to mere voters.
We really can’t blame the out of control federal government on a particular party or the President. The problem is the centralization of power in Washington D.C. The anecdote is federalism – 34 state legislatures are needed to call an Article V amendments convention, 26 states control the convention, and 13 states can block any unacceptable amendment proposal.
By requiring state approval for an increase in the federal debt, states would be reclaiming a modest portion of the authority over federal policies that the Constitution intended. If it works, it could become the prototype for other reforms that shift the balance of power back to a more equal footing, giving the states and the people real leverage rather than empty promises.
The country was at a similar crossroads in the late 1850s and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity that Article V provides then. We paid a heavy price for that failure. We need to take advantage of the Founders’ wisdom before it is too late to prevent what so much frustration is likely to produce.
Although currently we’re on the cusp of activating an amendments convention for a balanced budget, and it is a good idea to have a limited subject convention, our current circumstances may require that we have more than one convention over the next decade to clear up matters that have long been at issue in the federal-state relationship.
Mark Levin’s book “The Liberty Amendments” contains a lot of suggested amendments for proposal. We cannot expect the federal government to reform itself. The states are all that stands between we the people and national meltdown. Do we use them as they were intended or do we come to the modern equivalent of 1860 and find we’ve no good way back from a disaster of our own making?
I know a lot of people think “white” people ought to just keep our mouths shut about racism and Martin Luther King, Jr., but here’s a news flash for you … we’re all Americans and free speech applies to everyone on any issue. I’m part-American Indian, so I am not completely “white”, but I identify as “American”, so I’m going to address my comments as a “white” person.
MLK had a dream of a post-racial America where the content of a person’s character would be all that we cared about, where his black children could play with my white-and-American Indian children and Opinionated Man’s Asian children without anyone thinking it strange.
Guess what? The second part of that dream has been fulfilled. It already existed in some parts of the United States when MLK said the words, but it was not as pervasive as it should have been in a society founded on the simple principle that God created all of us equal, endowed with certain unalienable rights. That was wrong and white people repented of it 50 years ago.
Today — most of “white” America has long ago walked into post-racial America. We don’t care if our kids play with other races, we welcome neighbors regardless of their skin color, we have coworkers/employees/bosses who are different from us and we don’t care — or even notice. Some of us (who didn’t read Dreams From My Father) voted for Barack Obama, not caring if he was half-black or because we hoped his election would finally end the whole racism debate in this country. That would be my brother, who is as Indian as I am and really hoped his black son-in-law would stop looking for racist qualities in his “white” father-in-law if he voted for a black president.
Wow, what a miscalculation that was! Today, we are further from MLK’s dream than we were in 2007. Why? Because minorities took the election of Barack Obama as an excuse to make judgments about “white” people based not on the content of their character, but on the color of their skin. I’m not saying everyone. I know blacks, Hispanics and Indians who see past that superficial emblem, but far too many blacks, Hispanics and Indians with access to microphones and television cameras look at the exterior and see a racist for no other reason than that the person they’re looking at has white skin.
Think about what you are doing!
There comes a time when you have to lay aside the grievances of the past in order to move forward into a healthy relationship. You don’t forget, but you move on. Conversely, if you poke and demand recompense from people who mean you no ill, eventually, they’re going to feel that you mean them ill and they’re going to act accordingly. We’re at that point now.
The only thing holding us back from being a post-racial society are those who, for whatever reason, are unwilling to accept that we already are a post-racial society.
Let it go, folks! That’s all that stands between us and the dream!
Now we’re moving into the “Civil Rights” era amendments.
I’m generally in favor of taking a good hard look at any amendments that were passed due to a specific period of national stress because if you look at those amendments passed during times of stress, they’re generally flawed and out of character with the foundational ideals of liberty and individual rights.
The United States Constitution should not favor any group of individuals over another and when we do, we should eliminate that discrimination. The 24th Amendment is simple and doesn’t seem to cause any harm, but let’s discuss whether it was even necessary to make a prohibition against poll taxes a constitutional provision. Someone clearly thought it was a problem at the time, but really, couldn’t this have been dealt with by enforce existing laws?
The 25th Amendment was a necessary move toward clarifying presidential succession. If the 12th Amendment were reevaluated, the 25th might need to be revisited.
I personally registered to vote when I turned 18 and I think I’ve been a responsible voter in my 35 years of suffrage. I also had parents who taught me the value and the responsibility of my vote. I still voted for Carter against Reagan my first crack up at the ballot box, but I learned from my mistake and called it that publicly by the time Reagan had been president for three years. This did not, by the way, indear me to my fellow college students who were still opposed to President Reagan.
Sadly, too many young people vote with their feelings rather than their heads, resulting in lunacy like two terms for Barack Obama. It should be noted that 18 to 21 year olds make up less than 5% of the vote, generally, so they’re practicing and hopefully learning some hard lessons from their voting behavior and they generally don’t sway elections. They didn’t win either election for Obama. Women and blacks did that. We might want to have a discussion about it, but my feeling is – they’re adults and citizens of the United States.
In view of two terms for Barack Obama and four terms of FDR, I personally would like to see a citizenship test administered before one could register to vote, just so people actually show that they have a basic knowledge of what is at stake, but that’s just me and I suspect not constitutional. Maybe we should discuss it? The Founders thought voters ought to be educated so they would vote wisely. That’s not a function of age, gender or race. That’s a function of education and not the education you get in the public schools in the 21st century, so maybe a test would be a good idea. What do you folks think?
The 27th Amendment didn’t go far enough in limiting the power of multi-term Senators and Representatives to enrich their own pocketbooks. Only if it had been coupled with term limits might it have been effective. It’s worth a review to see how it might be strengthened.
These really are the forgotten amendments.
The 20th Amendment was a housekeeping device that I can’t find a real problem with, in and of itself, but delegates at an amendments convention could have a great conversation about whether Congress needs to be in almost perpetual session. Perhaps we should strive for them to spend at least six months out of the year in their home districts where they might actually talk to the citizens. Being away from DC for six months might make it harder for lobbyists to find them too.
The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th. Already discussed.
Now, the 22nd Amendment has had some real attempts at repeal. Partisans always want their favorite son to be able to run for more than two terms. While it would be tempting to allow a really great president to stay in office, I think we’d be stupid to do it and so far, Congress has agreed. There was actually some very real fears among the people of a monarchy forming under FDR, which is the reason this amendment was submitted not long after his death. People recognized that Roosevelt had not been indispensible and they could have done without his last two terms. (History has also made us question whether he actually won those two terms or if the big city political machines manufactured the vote, but that’s another discussion).
I don’t think 38 states could agree to change this amendment either. Now maybe they could discuss term limits for Congress. That would be a step in the right direction. If you read the “anti-Federalist” papers you find that the Framers actually discussed this. I think they could not conceive of a future where people live nearly 20 years longer than they did or they would have put a term limit provision in the Constitution’s body.
There is a Congressman who has submitted an amendment to repeal the 22nd every year since Barack Obama became president, but Congress has shown no interest in taking up the application.
The 23rd Amendment was also an acknowledgement of the right of all citizens to self-governance. It allowed DC residents to vote for President. It shouldn’t have been necessary, but again, I think the Founders weren’t thinking this would be a problem since they could not conceive of lifelong bureaucrats who would actually live in what was a swamp at the time it was selected as the capitol site.
They’re in the Constitution and we should know them and we really might want to ask ourselves why most of us forget they’re there. Are we just lazy or is our constitutional amnesia by design?