F. Other Draft Amendments
A Radical Centrist Vision for the Future > Appendix > F. Other Draft Amendments
Amendments still in the Rough Idea Stage
One other idea of Mr Block’s is very much worth further study, or making it into an Amendment. It is possible to be skeptical since there are practical difficulties that are easy enough to imagine, but the concept recommends itself:
Require a popular vote by taxpayers for tax increases. If your 1040 tax form (or any future equivalent) says $0 in taxes, you don’t get to vote. This would keep those with no skin in the game from skinning those who have skin in the game. If the budget becomes unbalanced as a result, then get out the meat cleaver and cut wherever necessary.
This suggestion has been edited slightly here, but is 90 % in David’s words.
* There are any number of additional Amendments that might be considered. One which was published at Rich Vail’s site, concerns standardized accounting. The idea is that a uniform system is needed for “all governments,” and that “all liabilities” are itemized ” and no off budget expenditures and liabilities” should be omitted. This should apply to all states, not only the Federal Government.
About this, since my knowledge of accounting procedures is non-existent, it seemed best not to try to write out an Amendment. But the logic in the argument seems valid and worth going further with. The short statement does appear to overlook some important details –such as listing assets, not only liabilities, and factoring in realistic forecasts– and needs a rationale for requiring this for the states, but the idea has merit.
* Clearly an Amendment is needed which rationalizes the petroleum and natural gas industries. Among other things, disasters such as Exxon-Valdez or the BP oil fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009 , should never be allowed to happen again. Furthermore, excessive profits, often at the expense of the consumer economy, must be curtailed. However, and this is very important, the Government should expedite oil and gas independence to the full extent this may be possible, or at a minimum to switch supply sources to friendly neighbors in the Western Hemisphere such as Canada. This means that energy policy should be such that projects like the proposed oil pipeline from Alberta to Texas, to use one example, should be facilitated and ways found to carry out the necessary construction with dispatch. Environmental issues should not be disregarded but, given major pressures on energy sources, ways should be developed to solve environmental problems. But the project should unquestionably be a priority.
But my knowledge of the oil and natural gas industries is severely limited, to understate the case, and drafting an Amendment on this set of issues is not something I feel competent to do.
* A health care Amendment would seem to be called for. What I know about the medical field isn’t much, however, and writing an Amendment on the subject is not something that I can do. But what is clear beyond all reasonable doubt is that the United States cannot stand for health care costs to reach 20 % of GDP in another few years, nor for continued price gouging by medical professionals. Why should a 20 minute routine check-up cost $ 250 or a 3 day hospital visit for a standard procedure worth maybe $ 800 cost a patient $ 3000? Which is only to broach the subject of out-of-control medical costs, hospital and doctor’s office inefficiencies, rip-off prices for pharmaceuticals, and outrageous insurance company profits.
* Many people have suggested a Balanced Budget amendment, often citing the fact that households need to balance their budgets, so what shouldn’t the US Government. The logic behind this idea is fallacious on the face of it and amounts to little more than a Right-wing talking point. After all, if a family is buying a home and has a mortgage, in what sense is their budget balanced? they are in debt, probably for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not even to count credit card debt, installment purchases, or still other such things, But a Responsible Budget amendment might be an excellent idea, and some of the Amendments suggested in the following material deal with particulars toward the goal of debt-neutral Federal budgeting. A workable and objectively fair plan for an overall Amendment of this kind will need to be written by an economist who has the capability to do so, however. Surely, there would need to be classes of exceptions, and there must be allowance for contingencies, but it ought to be doable –if crazy people cease and desist in demands for tax cutting as the answer to each and every problem known to man.
* A simple Amendment might be written that limits use of eminent domain to special categories of property uses, and disallows land seizure for re-sale to any profit-making commercial business. But everything that might be considered in such an Amendment requires far greater knowledge of real estate and civic responsibilities than I can offer.
* Another short Amendment has been suggested to the effect that no minor offenses such as ordinance violations, traffic tickets, and the like shall be grounds for incarceration and that other kinds of punishments should be devised which are more appropriate (types of community service, hours spent washing police cars, modest fines based on income, etc) which would also ease crowding in local jails. This should be written by someone familiar with Civil Law.
* And we certainly could use a new Amendment that clarifies the meaning on the Second Amendment.
* Another idea concerns the need for military officers to have some freedom to speak their minds when Government policy decisions strike generals or admirals as detrimental to the mission of the Armed Services, the defense of the country. As things are, this is impossible. Only retired officers may speak freely even when a chief executive acts to undermine military effectiveness, which has been the case for William Clinton and now Barack Obama. About which, concerning Clinton, there already exists an entire literature. Much the same can be said about George W. Bush, certainly concerning deployment of mercenaries rather than American troops to fight America’s wars.
However, what the practical problems would be if all ranking military officers had unfettered free speech prerogatives, is difficult to assess. And the problems would multiply if such freedom was allowed to all officers. At least an approximation of a better policy can be recommended concerning generals and admirals, but for others this will need to wait for the future. Still, some kind of Amendment might be a advisable so that damages to the military mission can be avoided when the educated opinions of officers are listened to as an antidote to decisions made by civilians with no military experience, or even with antipathy to the military per se.
* Finally, another Amendment might be most useful to protect freedoms of the Internet. About this, the issues involved are highly technical and beyond my competence to address to best effect. However, it would be unwise in the extreme to give preference to search engine protocols which favor big money interests over others, and which allow Government to impose more and more restrictions should it begin to set the agenda for the Web.
This said, some regulations are necessary, and the sooner the better. Exactly why, for instance, should a system exist in which private users are monitored without their consent by businesses seeking to extract commercial information? Why should people or institutions be allowed, with little threat of investigation or punishment, to infect other computers with viruses or so-called “trojans” Such activities ought to be regarded as felony crimes. Granted, reality says that no perfect detection and apprehension counter-system is possible, but some protection is better than none, and there is reason to think that a great deal could be accomplished if this was a priority. It might combine human resources with new technology and represent a new service which, like the invention of the Internet itself, the Government could accomplish for the common good.
This, however, will need to wait for someone else to write and recommend, something which takes into account plausible changes in electronic communications in the future. But it should take Amendment form for the simple reason that experience tells us that we sometimes cannot trust the Supreme Court to make rational decisions, nor can we trust the legislature not to meddle and add rules or regulations that pander to political constituencies. An Amendment would be approximately as much of an iron clad guarantee for an objectively good system of Internet regulation as it is possible to get.
Indeed, if there is one dominant theme in this project it is that the Supreme Court has usurped its rightful place in the Government and everything possible must be done to prevent ANY legislating from the bench in the future. The viewpoint taken here is that this is the most serious of all government problems and must be brought to an end.