Tuesday, March 30, 2010

They say it can't happen -- they're wrong

The immediate, instinctive response that most people have to the ideas in the blog is "No way!  It'll never happen."

The mood of the country, in reaction to the radical agenda our government is pursuing, is at a point where it is possible to generate the support we need.

We believe the current political environment in the U.S. Congress will make it impossible for these amendments to be enacted in the traditional way. The Constitution provides for an alternative way for amendments to be enacted: by calling for a Constitutional Convention.

The Amendment Process

There are two basic ways to amend the Constitution. One has never been tried. The amendment process followed by all existing amendments is as follows:

The Act of Congress

1. The proposed amendments must be passed in a bill by Congress. The President doesn’t sign, and they immediately go to the state legislatures for approval.

2. The amendments must be approved by three-fourths of the state legislatures. There are 50 states, and 38 must approve. Upon passage of the 38th state, the proposed amendment(s) become an official part of our Constitution.

The Constitutional Convention

Article Five of the United States Constitution provides an option to assemble a national Convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution as an alternative to the process of securing two-thirds approval in both houses of Congress.

Against oppressive government of any kind, the authors of the United States Constitution sought to establish institutional checks and balances. In framing the Constitution as the fundamental embodiment of such safeguards, the "Grand Convention" (assembled in Philadelphia, 1787) anticipated that, at some point, amending the basic law of the land might become necessary and yet be squelched by an unresponsive Congress. Foreseeing a day when the long-term health of the nation could depend upon a process that empowered states to secure amendments over the opposition of the national government, the delegates to the grand convention made provision for a future convention.

When two-thirds of the state legislatures shall apply - in the same procedure as they would follow for passing a law - then Article V of the Constitution requires the Congress to "call a convention for proposing amendments." In the Federalist Papers Alexander Hamilton notes that applications by two-thirds of the states would be "peremptory," and in the particular of whether Congress issues such a call, "nothing is left to the discretion of that body." In 1789 James Madison affirmed Hamilton's point that a refusal by Congress to call the convention would be unconstitutional.

The convention to propose an amendment (or amendments) carries no ratification powers. Article V authorizes the convention only to draft and propose amendment(s), which must then be ratified by either the state legislatures or unicameral ratifying conventions conducted within the individual states. The Framers built considerable complexity into the national legislature, whereas the Constitutional Convention was left unstructured, with its procedures permitted to be relatively simple and facile. The convention would consist of a single assembly of delegates (not two chambers as in Congress); and under Jefferson's lex majoris partis [4] a simple majority of members present and voting would suffice to submit a proposed amendment to the states.

Managing the State Process

We should develop and maintain a library of bills formatted as state-specific bills that can be downloaded by any state legislator and used as a draft bill to be submitted to his legislature. A key point: The Bill content should contain (all in the same bill):

• Apply to Congress to convene convention

• Appoint convention delegates

• Specify amendment language

• Limit delegate power to specific language

If we can generate sufficient grassroots support to maintain language discipline among the states, the risk of a “runaway convention” is eliminated, and the subsequent ratification debate is shortened, since the language will have already been approved once.

The key point to understand is that our focus should not be Congress, but rather the state legislatures.  They have the power to make these changes, if they can generate sufficient political will to do so.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's time for a basic change

WE THE PEOPLE voted very differently in the last election because we believed we wanted “change” and had “hope”. Like people choosing a movie from a very short, exciting trailer, we bought tickets to a show that turned out to have very objectionable content.

This blog is dedicated to a simple, clearly defined goal: amend the Constitution to reinforce and reinvigorate principled government of the people, by the people and for the people.

The four needed amendments are clear, simple, without extensive verbiage that lawyers and judges can misinterpret. They are designed to bring about a very fundamental change in the way our government operates, and to establish core principles that make it difficult for Congress to continue its manipulations.


1. No person shall serve as a Senator or Representative for a combined total of more than 12 years during his or her lifetime.

2. Senators and Representatives in office at the time of adoption of this Amendment who will exceed the 12 year limit by the end of their current term may serve to the end of that term, but may not run for Congress again.

3. This Amendment shall have ten (10) years from the date that Congress initiates ratification to be ratified by three fourths of the States of the United States.


1. The Congress shall not appropriate for expenditure, and the President shall not expend, more funds for any purpose or combination of purposes than the revenues projected by the Secretary of the Treasury for any budget year, unless Congress passes a Declaration of National Emergency by two-thirds vote of both houses and the President signs it.

2. Any excess in actual revenues above the budgeted amount must be used to reduce any outstanding Federal debt.

3. A Declaration of National Emergency must have a reauthorization date, which shall require a two-thirds majority of both Congressional houses and Presidential approval in order to extend the Declaration. Any extension must have a new reauthorization date.

4. The President shall have the right to veto any individual expenditure item within any bill passed by Congress without vetoing the entire bill. Congress may override such a veto by a two-thirds majority vote of both houses.

5. This Amendment shall have ten (10) years from the date that Congress initiates ratification to be ratified by three fourths of the States of the United States.


1. Amendment 16 to this Constitution is hereby repealed. Congress shall be prohibited from any levy of direct taxes based on income, production, inheritance or capital gains.

2. In recognition that all taxes are ultimately paid by individuals, Congress shall levy no taxes that are not visible at the point of purchase, and shall not tax corporations or other legal entities that are not persons.

3. Congress shall not impose any tax or grant any tax preference to any group that is not imposed on the population at large.

4. All taxation by the Federal government shall be based on sale of new products or services for consumption by individuals. Goods and services sold for resale or business use shall carry no tax.

5. This Amendment shall have ten (10) years from the date that Congress initiates ratification to be ratified by three fourths of the States of the United States.


1. Congress shall pass no law nor establish any program granting privileges or benefits to its members that are not available to the general public.

2. Congress shall not exempt itself or any of its members from any laws.

3. Congress shall not vote for final passage on any law until it has been available for public review for at least 7 days. Each section of any law shall include the name of the principal author of that section. Any legislator who votes on a law must certify that he has personally read and understood that law.

4. Congress shall attach to every law a full explanation of the authority for that law in the Constitution.

5. This Amendment shall have ten (10) years from the date that Congress initiates ratification to be ratified by three fourths of the States of the United States.

What do these Amendments accomplish?

1. They stop the most egregious practices that have evolved within our Congress.

2. They modernize and reinvigorate the Constitution

3. They strengthen good government by tightening the rules.

4. They restore our ability to trust our leaders.

• Term Limits prevent members of Congress from creating power careers in government. They serve to offset the seniority and committee systems that Congress has established to perpetuate incumbent careers.

• A Balanced Budget forces Congress to begin acting in a financially responsible way

• Tax Reform takes away Congress’s ability to use the tax code to reward friends and punish enemies and makes visible taxes that are hidden in corporate product prices today.

• Congressional Integrity takes away the most egregious practices that Congress uses to manipulate the legislative process.

What problems do they solve?

1. The Term Limits Amendment will reduce the ability of the radical right or radical left to achieve positions of great power.

2. The Balanced Budget Amendment will force Congress to reform the way it spends our money.

3. The Tax Reform Amendment will stop Congress from using the tax code to grant favors to select voter groups or punish particular segments of our society.

4. The Congressional Integrity Amendment specifically cures Congressional practices that have become the norm and are abhorrent to most citizens.

5. The Campaign Finance Reform Amendment sets clear, bright lines for the use of money to influence our politics.

II. Background

1. Election to Congress should not be a career. It should be a public service that a citizen performs and then returns to private life.

2. Congress should not have the ability to create deficits unless in time of national emergency. (The end of the fiscal year is NOT a national emergency!)

3. Congress should not be able to use the tax system to moderate behavior or grant special favors to special groups or redistribute income or implement a social agenda. The tax system should be used only to raise the necessary revenue for government operations and should be implemented in a manner that is fair to all citizens without regard to personal circumstance.

4. Congress should not be an exclusive club, with special programs and exemptions from the laws that affect the rest of us.

There are lots of other issues, and the public debate about them will (and should) no doubt continue. Most of these issues are contentious and do not have clear majority backing on either side. If the simple principles stated above can be implemented it will have a profound effect on our government and an extremely positive effect on our economy and our lives.

THIS IS A NON-PARTISAN AGENDA. Its sole intent is to change the rules by which the Congress operates in a manner that is clear, simple, and out of the reach of activist judges.

Why these amendments?

1. They establish/reestablish core principles

2. They are favored by a large majority

3. Both left and right can agree with them

4. They have enormous ripple effects

5. They stop the most egregious practices

Why now?

1. The government is out of control

2. The economy demands major change (just not the change it is getting)

3. The political parties are making the government dysfunctional

4. The tools exist to bypass traditional media and build national grassroots consensus

5. The public is angry

Why is this achievable now when it has not been in the past?

1. Citizens have come to loathe and fear their government

2. Online tools for grassroots organizing are now sufficiently powerful

3. Enough citizens have already shown that they agree with most of this agenda. Examination of signs at Tea Party rallies indicates broad support.

4. Congress is demonstrating the need on a daily basis

5. We can provide the means for connecting citizens with their state legislators where it has not existed in the past.

6. States trending toward insolvency directly threaten state sovereignty.

7. Both political parties have lost all credibility. Citizens are searching for coherent leadership and focused objectives.