A Perfect Example of What Killed American Democracy

January 13, 2021

No sooner did I publish yesterday’s post, in which I blamed the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision in 2010 for the death of American democracy, when a perfect example of that emerged.

Before I get into that, I have a question for you. What do you know about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and your own local chapter? Is it a branch of the U.S. Commerce Department? Is its purpose to promote commerce in America? The name of the organization would lead you to believe that the answer to both of the latter questions is “yes.”

You’d be dead wrong. The Chamber of Commerce is a French-based organization whose sole mission is the promotion of “free” trade. (Check out this post from 2009 for an explanation of this fatally flawed economic theory and how it has devastated America’s economy.) The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is that French organization’s American-based operation. Your local Chamber of Commerce reports to and funnels funds to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Here, it’s worth noting that in 2019, France – a nation whose workers enjoy benefits American workers can only dream of – enjoyed a trade surplus with the U.S. of $19.9 billion, despite being arguably the least productive nation on earth.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its local chapters makes a show of lobbying in favor of American businesses when issues important to them arise like taxes, regulations, minimum wage, etc. However, the effect of all of those issues combined is trivial compared to the one trillion dollars per year of business that is robbed from them through the world’s trade surplus with the U.S. On that issue, I challenge anyone to show me one single instance in which the Chamber has spoken out against the trade deficit and in favor of changes to trade policy aimed at restoring a balance of trade. No Chamber of Commerce organization, not the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or any one of its thousands of local chapters, has ever uttered a peep of protest about the U.S. trade deficit. The Chamber of Commerce masquerades as a pro-business lobby, all the while concealing the fact that it is working against American business on the one issue that dwarfs all others.

Thanks to the “Citizens United” decision by the Supreme Court, this French-based lobbying organization is considered to be an American “person” under the constitution. Its money – all the money collected in the form of membership fees from hundreds of thousands of American businesses that it strong-arms into joining its local chapters – is considered “free speech” which cannot be constrained under the 2nd amendment.

With all of that said, check out this article which appeared on Reuters yesterday. The CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce accuses Trump of undermining U.S. democracy. Scroll to the bottom of the article, and read this:

“… in a nod to Biden’s progressive agenda, he said lawmakers should fund “rapid training programs” to connect the unemployed with jobs in new sectors of the economy.

Donohue also said the Chamber will push for a new bill to boost legal immigration to help businesses deal with a shortage of workers.”

Pushing “training programs” is a classic pro-free trade gimmick used for decades to placate workers who have lost their jobs to off-shoring. And, incredibly, even in the midst of a pandemic when sixteen million Americans are unemployed, the Chamber has the audacity to suggest that we need to continue flooding the U.S. with immigrants “to help businesses deal with a shortage of workers.”

Earlier in the article, the Chamber CEO vows to cut off funding from Republicans who supported Trump. Is it Trump’s rhetoric that concerns him, or is it really the fact that Republicans began supporting Trump’s efforts at levying tariffs in an effort to fix our trade deficit?

This is a perfect example of the demise of our democracy. Our politicians are bought-and-paid-for by global corporations and foreign lobbying organizations. Your only choice is between two candidates who, on the most critical issues, take the exact same position – the position they’re paid to take. This isn’t democracy.

Capitol Building Riot: an attack on democracy? What democracy?

January 12, 2021

The democracy that our founding fathers envisioned, one where the people had the ability to choose our destiny by selecting from candidates with competing visions of how to improve our lives, has been gone for a long time. On the surface, that seems like a ridiculous statement, given how polarized our country is and how our candidates seem to be drifting toward the liberal and conservative extremes. However, exactly the opposite has happened. On the critical issues that have real impact on our standard of living, there is absolutely zero difference between the parties, while both use fringe issues to drive a wedge between us, making a show of offering a choice.

What are the critical issues? Two are chief among them – trade policy and immigration policy. Both parties have for decades been ardent supporters of “free” trade and open borders. Oh, they’ll each make a show of how they differ on minor details of how those policies are executed. The end result, however, is exactly the same – more jobs lost to globalist “free” trade policy, and more immigrants flooding the country to hold down wages for what jobs remain.

If there’s one issue that crosses party lines, it’s that Americans are nearly unanimous in opposition to the destruction of the manufacturing sector of our economy. Most everyone cringes when they look at the “made in China” or “made in Mexico” labels on everything we buy, and hate the fact that they can’t buy American. It’s a glaringly obvious opportunity for a candidate to win election in a landslide. Yet, at least until Trump came along, not a single candidate would touch the issue. Instead, Republicans and Democrats – the “Republicrat” party – told us, “too bad.” “Those jobs are gone forever.”

How the hell did this happen? I would argue that the demise of American democracy is rooted in a fatal flaw in our constitution. Back in the 18th century, when the Constitution was written and the U.S. was made up of only thirteen states, Article V of the Constitution, which spells out the procedure for amending it, may have seemed reasonable. It requires that a proposed amendment must first pass both houses of Congress by a two-thirds majority. Then it must be ratified by three-quarters of the states. In 1776, that was 10 states. Today it would require ratification by 38 states. In essence, it’s now impossible (and has been for a very long time) to amend the Constitution. That leaves it up to the Supreme Court to interpret how this antiquated document applies to the complicated issues of our modern times.

The very first words of the Constitution are “We the people … ” Seems pretty straightforward, right? Yet nothing has been more contentious than the meaning of the word “people.” It took a long time for it to be interpreted to include blacks and women, which now seems obvious. But what about corporations? They’re made up of people. Do corporations have the same rights as individual people? Click here for a good history of how the Supreme Court’s interpretation of that issue has evolved over the centuries.

It came to a head with the “Citizens United” decision in 2010. Click here for a good explanation of what that was and what it’s done to our democracy. This incredible decision gave corporations – even global corporations – all of the same rights as individuals. Even worse, it also equated money with speech. Now there are virtually no limits to how much corporations can spend to influence elections, because it would infringe on their right to free speech. Free speech is now a commodity, for sale to the highest bidder. Global corporations can run ads in the national media promoting their causes. You can’t because you can’t afford it. Your opinion has been priced out of the market.

To quote the above-linked American Promise web site: “… corporations, for which changes in regulatory policy may equate to billions of dollars’ difference to their bottom lines, have unique motivations to support or dispute policy and election outcomes, which may not align with the well-being of the American people. Indeed, corporate interests are often contrary to the interests of the general public, and studies find that elite interests are much more likely to be reflected in policy outcomes than those of the general public.”

With money comes influence. Who do you think wields more influence, a corporation who donates $100,000 to a campaign, or you with your $10 donation? You? Don’t make me laugh. The end result of all of this is that the candidates of both parties are literally bought and paid for by corporations. And corporations hedge their bets by donating to both candidates so that, regardless of who wins, the president and members of Congress are deeply indebted to them. You? They don’t give a rat’s ass about you! Your plight is irrelevant to them. You think your vote matters? Each candidate will tell you anything in the hopes of getting 50.1% of the vote. Once in office, you find out who they’re really working for. It’s not the American people.

If, somehow, a rogue candidate emerges who isn’t aligned with their globalist agenda, as Trump did, they kick their media campaign into high gear to destroy them. Easy to do, since they own the media. Freedom of the press? Gone. All employees of media companies do exactly what their bosses tell them and brainlessly read the script from their teleprompters. Facts are presented selectively to skew public opinion. Even “fact-checkers” are bought-and-paid-for employees of their corporate owners.

There’s actually little difference between our “democracy” and what masquerades as a democracy in other places, like Russia, for example. It’s a foregone conclusion that Putin will win election by something like 95% of the vote. In the U.S., it’s a foregone conclusion that the bought-and-paid-for Republicrat party will win. Which Republicrat candidate makes no difference.

For years I’ve been warning of the economic consequences of ever-worsening overpopulation – how it erodes employment and how trade with overpopulated nations accelerates the effects. For decades the world has been locked in an ever-escalating global war for jobs – jobs that have been steadily pirated from the American economy, facilitated by global organizations like the World Trade Organization, the United Nations, and others – organizations to which the U.S. has gradually and foolishly been ceding control of its economy. The global war for jobs has intensified and finally arrived in America, where it’s had the most devastating effect, and has manifested itself in the riot at the Capitol building.

America’s democracy has been gutted through decades of misinterpretation of its constitution. Global corporations didn’t like it. No problem. Just change the definitions of words until the whole document is unintelligible. Corporations are now people. Money is speech. Hell, thanks to Bill Clinton, now we’re not even sure “… what the definition of the word ‘is’ is.” We can’t clarify the constitution to make it work again for the America people, because it’s impossible to amend. We can’t change the amendment process because, well, that would require an amendment.

I don’t know where we go from here. It’s hard to see how this can possibly turn out well.

U.S. Constitution Dying of Neglect

October 29, 2012

While Michiganders are fortunate to live in a state not considered a “battleground” by either of the presidential campaigns, thus sparing us the onslaught of obnoxious TV ads, we are, however, being bombarded by commercials by those both for and against six different ballot proposals.  Of these six proposals, five are proposed amendments to the state constitution. 

It got me wondering just how typical or unusual this might be, so I did a little research.  I was surprised by just how dynamic a document the Michigan state constitution really is.  The Michigan constitution was first adopted in 1835.  Included in that constitution was a provision that every sixteen years there be placed on the ballot a proposal calling for a state constitutional convention.  As a result, since that original constitution in 1835, there have been five additional constitutional conventions in Michigan.  On three occasions – most recently in 1963 – the new constitutions that came out of those conventions were approved by the people.  Two were rejected.  The ballot proposals that call for such conventions have failed twelve times, most recently in 2010. 

Most ballot proposals to amend the state constitution fail.  But, since the last Michigan constitution was adopted in 1963, there have been 28 amendments.  Seventeen of these were citizen initiatives placed on the ballot by a petition process.

Now, let’s contrast that to the U.S. constitution.  The last (and only) consitutional convention was in Philadelphia in 1787 – 225 years ago.  That convention was called only six years after ratification of the original Articles of Confederation in 1781, which soon proved unworkable.  The one and only big revision to the Constitution occurred only 4 years later in 1791 with the enactment of the Bill of Rights – the first ten amendments.  Since then, in the last 221 years, there have been only 17 additional amendments.  One of these, the 21st, repealed the 18th, which enacted prohibition.  (Michigan was the first state to ratify this amendment!)  As a result, only 15 amendments enacted since 1791 remain in effect.  In the past 50 years, only 4 amendments have been enacted.  The most recent, the 27th amendment, preventing congressional pay raises from taking effect until the next session of Congress, was enacted in 1992.  That one took a while.  It was first proposed in 1789.

Article V of the constitution defines the process for amending it.  It can be done in one of two ways:  (1) A proposed amendment must first pass in both houses of congress by a two thirds majority before being submitted to the states for ratification.  To be ratified, it must be approved by three-fourths of the states.  The founding fathers didn’t want to make it nearly impossible for a proposed amendment to pass by requiring unanimous approval.  At that time, three-fourths of the states meant that nine states had to approve the amendment.  I wonder if they’d still require three-fourths of the states today, or would they lower that bar to maybe two-thirds,  now that a proposed amendment must be approved by 38 states?  (2) Or, two thirds of the states can demand that Congress call a constitutional convention to propose an amendment, to then be ratified by three-fourths of the states.  The latter procedure has never been used. 

As a result of this procedure, it’s very difficult to amend the constitution.  But it can happen pretty fast, especially if the people are angry enough.  The amendment that was proposed and ratified most quickly was the 26th, which lowered the voting age to 18. In 1965, relatively early in the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Barry McGuire recorded Eve of Destruction, the first anti-war song.  It included the lyrics:

You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’?

As the war raged on for years, as casualties mounted (most of them below the current voting age of 21), and as anti-war sentiment grew, these lyrics became a rallying cry.  In March of 1971, Congress proposed the 26th amendment to lower the voting age to 18.  It only took a little more than three months for it to be ratified by the states.

Our founding fathers acknowledged their own shortcomings when it came to drafting a constitution and were eager to revise it as dictated by circumstances.  It only took them six years to recognize that their original document, the Articles of Confederation, were woefully inadequate.  Then it only took them four years to admit that the new Constitution needed serious amending with the Bill of Rights.  Three years later they added the 11th amendment, laying the foundation for sovereign immunity.  Ten years after that, the 12th amendment was ratified, revising presidential election procedures.  The 13th amendment, which abolished slavery, wasn’t enacted until 61 years later in 1865.   Since then there have been amendments to establish the federal income tax and to give women the right to vote, among the more significant amendments.

It’s not that lawmakers haven’t tried to update the constitution more frequently.  There have been over 11,000 proposals for amendments that have failed to be passed by Congress, including balanced budget amendments, an amendment that would limit constitutional protections to natural persons and not corporations, a human life amendment, an amendment that would grant citizenship only to babies born in the U.S. with at least one parent who is a citizen, and many others. 

An amendment that has never even been proposed is one that we need perhaps more desperately than any of the others – the 28th Amendment proposed on this web site – prohibiting the U.S. from running a trade deficit and from being a member of any international organization that does not recognize America’s fundamental and sovereign right to manage trade in its own best self-interest, including the use of tariffs. 

Many of these amendments, especially the one I’ve mentioned above, are desperately needed.  Without them, the United States is headed for economic ruin.  Like nearly all states, the state of Michigan maintains a balanced budget because the legislature is forced to do so by Michigan’s constitution.  It gives the legislators the “cover” they need to defend their actions to their constituents.  Everyone knows that they have to make tough compromises to comply with the constitutional requirement. 

Not so in Congress.  The days when congressmen and senators would work together and compromise in the best interest of the common good are long past.  Lobbying is too intense, as is the scrutiny of special interest groups who can distort every vote to make the congressman or senator appear to be the worst villain since Hitler.  Without the driving force of a constitutional requirement to make tough decisions, nothing will ever be accomplished in Congress.   Unfortunately, it has become impossible for any proposed amendment to be passed by Congress for all the same reasons.  It’s impossible to ever again get a two thirds majority to agree on anything.  Consequently, our badly outdated constitution and the nation itself is dying of neglect.

Multi-national corporations have hijacked our government because the constitution doesn’t more clearly define what it means by “the people” and makes no distinction between “freedom of speech” and advertising space in print and on air that is sold to the highest bidder for the purpose of spreading propaganda containing distortions and outright lies.  (It seems inconceivable that the amendment regarding free speech pre-dates the invention of the telegraph, radio, television and the internet and hasn’t been clarified since.)  The federal government has bankrupted the nation because there are no constitutional requirements to maintain a balance of trade and a balanced budget.  The founding fathers could never conceive that we’d be so foolish and would be horrified at what’s happening. 

A hopeless situation?  Probably.  Unlike in 1971, when lawmakers responded to a tidal wave of anger as their constituents watched their sons die in a war over which they had no say at all, no amount of voter anger is sufficient to sway lawmakers from doing the bidding of their multi-national benefactors. 

But there may be a tiny crack through which “the people” – real people – can still have an impact.  Buried in the first amendment amid the freedoms of speech and religion is a lesser-known right:  the right to petition the government.  Unfortunately, the supreme court has even blunted that right by ruling that, while the people have a right to petition, the government has no obligation to respond.  Nevertheless, there is one petition to which the federal government must respond – a demand by two thirds of the states to call a constitutional convention to propose an amendment.  While it now seems impossible to get an amendment approved by Congress for possible ratification by the states, the other method spelled out by the constitution for making amendments which has never been used may be our best hope.  How could that ever happen – two thirds of the states calling for a convention?  It could happen if the people of those states, through the petition process, got measures on the ballots that would require their states to make such a demand.  It’s something I’m going to look into for the state of Michigan.  Can an issue be placed on the ballot that would require Michigan to call for a constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing the “28th amendment?” 

I imagine that it would be very, very easy – especially here in Michigan – to get enough signatures on a petition to place that issue on the ballot.  Imagine the possibilities if word of such a move in Michigan spread to other states.  Hey, I know it’s the longest of all long shots, but it’s something worth looking into.  I’ll let you know what I find.

Cumulative U.S. Trade Deficit Surpasses $10 Trillion

September 14, 2010
Today, September 15th, 2010, America’s economy has reached a very sad milestone.  Our cumulative trade deficit, since our last trade surplus in 1975, expressed in current dollars, has now eclipsed $10 trillion.

America experienced its last surplus of trade in 1975. Since then, through July, the most recent month for which trade data has been released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, when adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cumulative trade deficit was $9.93 trillion. Assuming a continuing monthly trade deficit of $45 billion (the current 3-month moving average), it is estimated that the trade deficit has now reached $10 trillion as of September 15th.

The U.S. is on track for its 35th consecutive annual trade deficit in 2010 since its last trade surplus in 1975. The U.S. trade deficit of $759 billion set a record in 2006. With the onset of the global recession in 2007, it fell steadily to $375 billion in 2009, but is expected to rise again to over $500 billion in 2010.  Almost half of all Americans alive today have never known an America with a trade surplus.

Through July, 2010, America’s largest trade deficit is with China, at $145.3 billion. The trade deficit with Mexico is second at $38.4 billion. The trade deficit with Japan is third at $31.6 billion. The trade deficit with Germany is fourth at $18.7 billion.

America is $10 trillion poorer today as a result of bone-headed trade policy based on failed 18th century economic theories.  That’s $32,250 for every man, woman and child in America – almost $130,000 for every family of four.  It’s enough money to solve virtually every financial challenge facing America, including putting the social security fund back on sound footing.  It’s enough money to nearly wipe out our national debt.

In 1947, when America signed the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, it was so easy for our leaders to come together and hold hands with the rest of the world, like the old “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” Coke commercial.  Now we see what their sappy good intentions and simple-minded economists have wrought – an America in serious decline and a global economy collapsed by enormous trade imbalances.  Nowhere is a leader to be found with the courage to undo what our 1947 predecessors stumbled into so blindly.  If our founding fathers ever thought it conceivable that our trade policy would be abandoned to a global trade organization bent on pillaging America, they would surely have included in the constitution a requirement for a balance of trade that also made it illegal to join such a global organization.

Never has America been so threatened by neglect of its economy and by a complete failure of leadership.  Never has it so badly needed an amendment to its constitution to mandate the inclusion of common sense in its trade policy.  (See https://petemurphy.wordpress.com/more-good-stuff/28th-amendment-to-the-constitution-of-the-united-states/ )

Supreme Court Ruling Illustrates Need for Constitutional Overhaul

January 22, 2010


As reported in the above-linked Reuters article, the Supreme Court yesterday gave the green light to unlimited spending on election media blitzes by corporations and anyone else with deep enough pockets.  One quote from the article says it best:

“It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans,” Obama said.

Never mind Obama’s party affiliation.  He’s right.  This ruling strikes down the concept of “free speech” and makes “speech” a commodity for sale to the highest bidder. 

But let’s back up a little and begin with the first amendment, upon which the court’s ruling is based:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This amendment was adopted in 1791.  At that time, radio had not yet been invented.  There was no electronic media.  Movable-type printing presses had barely evolved from Gutenberg’s original invention, and were still limited to a rate of about 250 sheets per hour.  The most recent presidential election in 1789 was actually our nation’s first.  It was uncontested and George Washington was elected our first president. 

In short, the writers of the first amendment had absolutely no clue how elections would be contested even then, much less 220 years later.  They envisioned campaign advertising that consisted of flyers posted in the town square, free speech meant the right to stand up on a stump and say whatever you want, and the right to peaceably assemble meant gathering around the guy on the stump to hear what he had to say.  Never in their wildest dreams did they imagine that speech could be commoditized, sold to the highest bidder and pounded into our heads through electronic media blitzes.  They couldn’t envision a future in which money was speech and massive global corporations would be interpreted to be “the people” or even an assemblage of the people. 

In 1791 it was inconceivable that the human population could ever explode to the point where every square foot of land and every resource would be pressed into service to keep our economy going.  The western boundaries of the American continent were scarcely known.  It’d be another twelve years before the Lewis and Clark expedition would explore the Louisiana Purchase.  And, beyond a handful of intellectuals in Europe, the field of economics didn’t even exist.  It’d be another 26 years before the first economic theories regarding foreign trade would be proposed.

Since that time, our constitution has been amended seventeen times, bringing to twenty-eight the total number of amendments.  These subsequent amendments (beyond the original ten in the Bill of Rights, adopted in 1791) have dealt with issues mundane and profound, ranging from pay raises for Congress to the abolition of slavery and the authorization of the federal income tax.  But since 1950, only five amendments have been adopted.  In the last 39 years, there has been only one, limiting congressional pay raises.

The antiquity of the provisions of the constitution and its amendments, which provides the basis for supreme court decisions like this most recent one, is distorting our democracy in a way that threatens our survival as a nation.  With yesterday’s ruling, the court has unwittingly tilted power in favor of the faction which benefits by unlimited population growth to the detriment of individual citizens.  The court doesn’t understand the break that occurred in the interests of corporations versus the interests of individual citizens when a critical population density was breached.  Nor do they care.  Their purpose is to interpret rules established by people who lived in a world that no longer exists and blindly apply them to a world our founding fathers couldn’t even imagine.  It’s the constitution and its amendments that are the problem, not the Supreme Court.

Our constitution is in desperate need of overhaul and further amendments.  The two I’ve proposed on this blog, the 28th and 29th amendments, would go a long way toward sustaining our prosperity for generations to come.

Tough Choices Highlight Need to Amend Constitution

March 29, 2009


The linked editorial by Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, speaks to the need to make tough choices to fund the intiatives proposed by President Obama in his budget.  In a particularly cynical mood, I wrote the following response:

This may be the fatal flaw in democracy – the inability to make tough choices. Like a family with four children that is run democratically, the end result is inevitably a bankrupt household loaded with toys, run by truant, morbidly obese children, lying around in front of the TV amid the clutter of empty pop cans, potato chip bags and candy wrappers.

How can any tough choices ever be made when we are governed by people interested above all else in re-election who will tell us what we want to hear – that we can have it all while reducing taxes further with each election cycle?

I see absolutely no hope that these problems will ever be addressed.

What hope can we have that any of our problems will be addressed when one party tells us that we can have it all, to be paid for later, while the other party tells us that we can cut taxes more and more without consequence?  Both parties say they want fiscal responsibility, but the time is never right.  There’s always some crisis that must be dealt with first. 

Then I remembered that similar problems are dealt with successfully all the time at the state level.  The arguments about spending and taxes are virtually the same, yet compromise is ultimately reached and budgets are balanced.  Why?  Because it’s mandated by the state constitutions.

In the 222 years since the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the constitution has been amended eighteen times to add 27 amendments.  Only one amendment, the 16th, ratified 96 years ago in 1913, dealt with the economy and the financing of our federal government.  The 16th amendment established the income tax, addressing the fears of many that the United States would soon become insolvent without it.  Until that time, all federal revenue was generated from tariffs on imports and from some small “excise taxes” that were nothing more than incomes taxes disguised to skirt questions about their constitutionality. 

Just imagine what our nation’s leaders in 1913, concerned about insolvency then, when our national debt was about $2.6 billion, would think if they could see the state of our nation’s finances today.  Today, our national debt is 5,000 times higher.  Even adjusted for inflation and population growth, the per capita share of the national debt burden is about 77 times higher.  In 1913, we had no trade deficit, while in 2008 our trade deficit was $677 billion.  In 1913 we were self-sufficient in energy resources while today we import 75% of our energy needs.   I think it’s safe to say that the framers of our constitution and even our nation’s leaders in 1913 who were so concerned about the potential for insolvency would be absolutely stunned and aghast at what has become of our country, now bankrupt in every sense of the word. 

Because of the political consequences associated with making tough choices, none are ever made.  There is talk in Washington of a complete overhaul of regulation of our financial industry.  But the problems go much deeper and the need for reform extends much further.  Nothing less than constitutional amendments are needed if we are to have any hope of a return to fiscal responsibility and any hope of dealing with mortal threats to the continued viability of our nation, including the trade deficit, energy policy and overpopulation. 

If our philosophical differences prevent us from reaching agreement on how to balance the budget, let’s begin by agreeing that it needs to be done and mandate it through an amendment to the constitution.  If we can’t agree on how long to wait for our free trade policy to eventually restore a balance, we can agree that an enormous, perpetual trade deficit is unsustainable and amend the constitution to require a balance.  If we can’t muster up the courage to utter even a peep of concern about the potential for population growth to transform us into another India, then let’s amend the constitution to at least force a discussion on where we’re going and just high high we’re willing to let our population rise. 

The framers of our constitution could never even begin to imagine the breadth and depth of the problems that now beset us.  Otherwise, they would surely have included mandates to force us to deal with them.  But we can see the problems clearly.  The question is, do we have the courage to act, as our forefathers surely would have if they had a crystal ball, or is this also too tough a choice for us to face?

Time to Amend the Constitution

September 28, 2008

I’ve been pondering this post for many months, but events of the past week associated with the financial melt-down, the economic collapse that it threatens and the half-baked “solutions” that have been served up have convinced me that the underlying forces driving these events must be addressed by institutionalizing some fundamental principles for guiding our nation in the future. These issues are too big and too complicated to be left to the whims of elected officials, lacking the background to comprehend the scope of these challenges and subject to the constant pressure of those who don’t have the nation’s best interests at heart.

The first of these is the subject of trade. While it may be in the best interest of global corporations to pursue unfettered free trade, regardless of the consequences for any one nation, including the United States, it is clearly not in the best interest of our nation to run enormous trade deficits year-in and year-out. Events of the past week should be clear proof. But, thanks to the influence of the executives of global corporations, that’s exactly the policy we continue to pursue.

So I offer the following as a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States. I thought about building into this proposed amendment the solution I proposed in Five Short Blasts – a tariff structure only on manufactured goods that is indexed to the population density of our trading partners. But this is the kind of detail that is better left to legislation. (For more discussion of the rationale of the wording for this amendment, click on the link which will take you to a page devoted to a detailed explanation.)

28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

The United States shall not maintain a trade deficit with the rest of the world. The Congress shall enact trade policy utilizing import quotas and tariffs as necessary to assure that the cumulative effect of trade over the years, as measured in current dollars, is to maintain a positive balance. The Congress shall review and adjust as necessary such import quotas and tariffs annually to maintain an overall, cumulative balance of trade. The United States shall not be a member to any international organization that does not recognize the United States’ fundamental right to manage international trade in its best interest.

Secondly, while the relationship to the past week’s events aren’t quite as obvious, I propose the following amendment as necessary to prevent the steady erosion of the standard of living, quality of life and social fabric of the nation by the effects of overpopulation.

29th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

The Congress shall establish a target population for the United States for the purpose of assuring a high standard of living and quality of life for its citizens. The target population shall not be higher than can be continuously sustained by domestically-produced natural resources, or by trading such excess resources for others not available domestically. Also, the target population of the United States shall be below the level that, if applied globally, is determined by science to pose no threat to the global environment. The Congress shall establish immigration quotas consistent with achieving the target population. The Congress shall also enact policies that, while leaving people free to choose the size of their families, encourage the population to move toward and stabilize at the established target level. The target population shall be reviewed by Congress annually and shall be retained or adjusted as necessary.

These amendments force our government to confront two issues which, if left unchecked, threaten the continued viability of our nation. Until now, we have placed blind faith in our lawmakers and in our economic model of capitalism to always move our nation forward in the right direction. Just as in the past, when we found it necessary to establish certain boundaries within which capitalism must operate, we have now found that additional boundaries are required. In the first half of the 20th century, we established labor laws to prevent the exploitation of workers. In the latter half of the 20th century, we established boundaries to protect the environment. The need for those boundaries was so obvious that constitutional amendments weren’t required to force the Congress to act.

But this doesn’t seem to be the case with the issues I’ve addressed here. The opposing forces have grown so powerful as to prevent any meaningful discussion of the issues and the issues are too complex to lend themselves to obvious solutions. So new boundaries or guiding principles – these amendments – are necessary. The first of these prevents any entity from placing its economic self-interest ahead of the interest of the common good of the citizens of the United States. The second prevents the erosion of our standard of living and quality of life by uncontrolled population growth and the effects of overpopulation.

The purpose of these amendments is to function as guiding principles and not as legislation, so they are intentionally broad in scope but light on detail. It is up to the Congress to craft legislation that would comply with these principles, and it is up to the judiciary to pass judgment on the constitutionality of such legislation. With that in mind, I acknowledge that these proposed amendments may have room for improvement and welcome any suggestions. Please feel free to comment. Let me know what you think.

Beyond that, please don’t look upon this as merely an interesting post, perhaps worthy of a comment, to be forgotten when you move on with your web browsing. Take it to heart. Promote it among your family, friends and associates. Write your senators and congressmen and encourage them to consider these proposals. Challenge them to make history by championing these sorely needed amendments to our guiding set of principles. Our nation cannot afford to be steered off course much longer by those motivated by self-interest instead of the common good.